Time running out on driving rights bills in New Jersey

| 11/29/2007

With the end of the regular session in New Jersey about five weeks away, time is winding down on a legislative package that would make it easier for drivers in the state with suspended licenses to keep their driving privileges. One bill would help truckers stay on the road.

Sponsored by Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, the four bills stem from a report issued more than a year ago 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 vehicle 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 for driving without liability insurance from one year to a period of two to 12 months. It also would allow judges 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.

The Senate approved each of the bills and forwarded them to the Assembly. If approved there, they would move to Gov. Jon Corzine’s desk.

All legislation must pass both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for Jan. 8.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor