NJ Law Does Not Prohibit Driver Texting While Vehicle Is Stopped

Although New Jersey law enforcement officers are trying to crack down on drivers who use their cell phones to talk or text, there is a little-known loophole that has been used by some drivers to avoid traffic tickets. Shockingly, it is not currently against the law in NJ for a person behind the wheel of a car to use a cell phone when the car is stopped at a stop sign or a red light.

While not everyone thinks it’s a big deal for a person to be texting while their vehicle is stopped, the problem, say some traffic safety experts, is that the texting usually continues after the vehicle is in motion.

In 2015, some NJ lawmakers sought to change the law so that patrol officers could ticket drivers who were observed using their cell phones to text, or speak, while sitting at a stop light.

John Wisniewski, the head to the NJ Assembly Transportation Committee, previously introduced legislation in the NJ State Assembly that would make it illegal for a driver to use their handheld cell phone at any point while sitting behind the wheel of a car. The proposed bill passed the Assembly but failed to gain approval by the NJ State Senate.

Despite the inability to get the distracted driving law approved last year, Wisniewski said that he would reintroduce some version of the bill in 2016 as well. According to the state legislator, cell phone use has led to a rise in the number of inattentive drivers and has resulted in a significant number of motor vehicle accidents.

If the bill proposed by Wisniewski had made its way through the NJ Senate and ultimately been approved by NJ Governor Chris Christie, a driver ticketed for talking or texting while sitting behind the wheel of a stopped car would have faced a fine of $200-$400 for a first offense, a fine of $400-$600 for a second offense, and a fine of $600-$800 for a third offense.

One important issue that will need to be addressed in any future legislation that is proposed by New Jersey lawmakers is precisely when it would become illegal for a driver to use their cell phone. For instance, previous attempts to outlaw cell phone use focused on drivers who had come to a stop at stop lights or stop signs. However, what happens when a person is sitting behind the wheel of a car that is in a parking lot? Or what about a driver who is sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle parked in their personal driveway? Or what about a driver who is waiting to merge onto a highway?

The problem of distracted driving has gotten particularly bad in New Jersey in recent years. According to a recent report issued by AAA, approximately 30 percent of NJ drivers said that they use their cell phones while traveling on NJ roadways.

For additional information, see the following article: Texting behind the wheel while stopped still legal in NJ