Driving rights' bills advance in New Jersey

| 12/1/2006

A New Jersey Senate panel has approved a legislative package that would make it easier for certain drivers with suspended licenses to keep their driving privileges. One of the bills would help truckers stay on the road.

The Senate Transportation Committee endorsed six bills sponsored by Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, that stem from a report issued in February that said suspending licenses creates unintended consequences, such as job loss and difficulty in finding employment, the Asbury Park Press reported.

"In New Jersey, driving is a necessity, not a luxury. For many . the loss of their driver's license can equate with the loss of their job and their ability to support their families," Turner said in a written statement.

As part of the legislative package, a pair of bills would reduce the severity of license suspensions for certain people.

One bill - S2326 - would give judges or the Motor Vehicle Commission the option to suspend a driver's personal vehicle's registration rather than the driver's license. The provision would allow such people as employees of construction services and people with jobs that require a valid driver's license to continue to work but only drive vehicles registered by their employers.

"For those individuals whose livelihood comes from sitting behind the wheel of a company-owned car or truck, this is a crucial change. It penalizes the driver by taking away personal driving privileges but still allows them to go about their daily work," Turner explained.

The second bill - S2328 - would lower the mandatory suspension of driving without liability insurance. The current one-year mandatory suspension would be reduced to two to 12 months. It also would allow the court to take into consideration whether the owner acquired liability insurance coverage prior to conviction.

Two more bills - S2331 and S2332 - would allow the courts and the commission to create a payment plan to pay off fines and replace small fines with community service work.

The bills now head to the full Senate. If approved, they would move to the Assembly for further consideration.