Most drivers are aware of how dangerous cell phone use can be behind the wheel, but that doesn’t stop some motorists from using their devices anyway. Distracted driving accidents can cause serious injuries and fatalities.

New Jersey laws address distracted driving, but how exactly do those rules attempt to curb driver behavior?

Hands-free driving

New Jersey is one of 16 states and the District of Columbia that ban all cell phone use behind the wheel, unless it is hands-free use. Minnesota recently passed a similar law that will go into effect later this year, increasing that number to 17.

The cell phone’s placement cannot interfere with vehicle safety equipment operation and the law applies to other electronic communication devices such as a band radio or two-way radio. Talking, texting, listening to another person on the phone or any other type of messaging are prohibited unless using hands-free capabilities.

Exceptions

Two exceptions apply to the hands-free law. Drivers who have a reason to fear for their life or safety, or who believe a criminal act is taking place, can use their phone to call for help. Drivers can also use their phone to report an emergency to authorities, such as:

  • A traffic accident
  • A fire
  • A road hazard
  • A hazardous materials emergency
  • Another driver acting recklessly, carelessly, unsafely or who appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Penalties

Drivers who violate this law are subject to certain penalties:

  • First offenses come with a $200 to $400 fine
  • Second offenses come with a $400 to $600 fine
  • Third or subsequent offenses come with a $600 to $800 fine

Third or subsequent offenses could cause a person to lose their ability to drive on the highway for 90 days and receive three points on their license.

While hands-free laws generally reduce handheld cell phone use, no law is 100 percent effective. Drivers can seek compensation for their injuries if another driver engages in illegal activity behind the wheel and causes an accident.