As in many other states, it is illegal to use a handheld communication device to talk or text while driving in New Jersey. Those who do so may face steep fines, and repeat offenders risk license suspension.
There is good reason for these strict penalties. Too often drivers overestimate their ability to multitask behind the wheel and underestimate the potentially deadly risk to themselves or others.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018 alone distracted driving was a factor in roughly 400,000 motor vehicle injuries and over 2,800 deaths.
New Jersey statistics
Driver inattention has been the leading contributing cause of fatal crashes on New Jersey roadways since 2011. In 2018, it was a factor in 146 fatalities; roughly the same number of deadly crashes involving an intoxicated driver (143).
The dangers of texting while driving
Texting can be especially risky because it impairs a driver’s ability to respond to a potential hazard in three ways: mentally, visually and physically.
In addition to shifting his or her attention away from surrounding traffic, a driver reading or responding to a message must take at least one hand off the wheel and both eyes off the road.
Other forms of distraction
Traveling at 55 miles per hour, it only takes 5 seconds to drive the length of an entire football field. Even a momentary distraction may be enough to prevent a driver from noticing a hazard and responding appropriately.
While cellphone use is one of the most common forms of distraction, anything that impairs a driver’s attention can be risky, including eating, grooming, conversing with passengers, caring for children or handling an unsecured pet.