Reckless/Aggressive Driving in New Jersey

In recent years, New Jersey's Motor Vehicle Commission has been increasing their efforts to remind motorists that driving is a privilege rather than a right. The state's laws allow for driving privileges to be revoked when the rules of the road are violated. In addition to suspending your driver's license, you may face significant fines and even be incarcerated. Those who are found to be operating recklessly, aggressively or exhibiting behaviors of “road rage” should expect to face consequences.

Aggressive Driving

According to the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, aggressive driving has become an “epidemic” in recent years. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country with more than 1,200 people per square mile. This contributes to stress and tension among drivers who are frequently traveling on congested roads.

Drivers who demonstrate aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding, constantly changing lanes, tailgating, and gesturing to other motorists are creating a dangerous environment. We are now plagued with injuries, property damage, and fatalities that result from reckless and aggressive driving.

Excessive Speed

Despite being a very obvious danger, drivers continue to operate at excessive speeds. When a driver is speeding they are impeding their ability to react to potential dangers. Excessive speed also makes it much more difficult to navigate turns and has a dramatic impact on the force involved in collisions.

Excessive speed is a factor in more than 30% of all vehicle crashes and more than 60% of fatal crashes in the U.S. In New Jersey each year, there are more than 20,000 crashes that are attributed to speeding. On average, 19% of roadway fatalities in New Jersey involve speeding.

States With the Most Aggressive Drivers

Rank[1]

 

# 1

California

# 2

Connecticut

# 3

Georgia

# 4

Texas

# 5

North Carolina

# 6

New Jersey

Road Rage Incidents

Incidents of road rage extend beyond merely driving aggressively and can result in criminal charges. An example would be where an enraged motorist intentionally causes a vehicle collision. There also have been incidents where motorists have exited their vehicles and physically assaulted someone.

Reckless Driving (39:4-96)

This involves operating a vehicle carelessly in a manner that demonstrates a willful disregard for public safety. The driver may be operating in a way that is a risk to people and/or property. The driver may be sentenced to a maximum of 60 days in a municipal or county jail facility and fined up to $200. For a second offense, the period in jail may extend up to 90 days and up to a $500 fine may be imposed.

In many jurisdictions, a charge of reckless driving is often negotiated as part of a plea agreement in cases of alleged Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). New Jersey law does not allow for negotiation in this manner.

Racing on Highways (39:4-52)

Motor vehicles may not be operated upon highways for purposes of wagering, racing, or to make speed records. First-time offenders may be fined between $25 and $100. Second-time offenders may be fined up to $200.

Careless Driving (39:4-97)

This involves someone who is carelessly operating a vehicle "without due caution and circumspection." This type of driving is likely to create a risk for people and/or property.

Driving a Vehicle in an Unsafe Manner (39:4-97.2)

This provision prohibits operating a vehicle in a way that is a danger to people and/or property. First-time offenders may be fined up to $150. Second-time offenders may be fined up to $250 and then up to $500 for any subsequent offenses. A prior offense is one that occurred in the past five years. A surcharge may also be imposed of $250 to fund the New Jersey Merit Rating Plan.

Aggravated Assault by Auto or Vessel (2C:12-1)

Someone driving an automobile or boat in a reckless manner that results in serious bodily injury may be charged with assault. The driver may be charged with a fourth-degree offense when serious bodily injury occurs or a disorderly person offense if the injury is not deemed as serious. Fourth-degree offenses are punishable by up to 18 months of incarceration and a maximum fine of $10,000.

The law defines a bodily injury as being one that involves “physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition.” Serious bodily injury is defined as a condition where there is a “substantial risk of death” or resulting in “permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment” of body parts or organs.

If the driver is determined to be driving while intoxicated, the charges may be elevated to a third-degree offense. Third-degree offenses are punishable by up to five years of incarceration and a maximum fine of $15,000. This charge of assault may be enhanced to a second-degree offense if it occurred on the property of a school or within 1,000 feet of the property of a school. This also applies when occurring in a designated school crossing

Death by Auto or Vessel (2C:11-5)

When a fatality results from operating a “vehicle or vessel recklessly” it may be deemed as a criminal homicide. This may apply if it is proven that the driver had fallen asleep while driving or if the driver had not slept in the past 24 hours. This may also apply if it is proven that the offender was operating while impaired from alcohol or drugs or was using a hand-held wireless device.

This crime is charged as a second-degree offense and is subject to a presumption of incarceration. Second-degree offenses in New Jersey are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a maximum of a $150,000 fine. The court may impose a mandatory minimum term that the offender must serve in prison before having eligibility for parole. This term may range from between one-third to one-half of the sentence or three years.

This charge of vehicular homicide may be enhanced to a first-degree offense if it occurred on the property of a school or within 1,000 feet of the property of a school. This also applies when occurring in a designated school crossing. A first-degree offense is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Legal Representation for Defending Serious Traffic Offenses

Members of law enforcement and the courts are increasingly focused on roadway safety throughout the state. Those who are found to be driving recklessly or carelessly may find themselves facing significant penalties. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience representing clients in New Jersey courts. We encourage you to contact the office today for a consultation at (888) 535-3686.


[1] http://newjersey.news12.com/story/40118956/new-jersey-ranks-in-top-10-most-aggressive-drivers-in-the-us

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