New Jersey bill would crack down on road rage

| 12/6/2007

A bill in the New Jersey Assembly that is intended to help curb rage could come up for consideration in the final month of the regular session.

Dubbed “Jessica’s Law,” the bill would make such offenses as tailgating and making obscene gestures while driving primary offenses. Drivers can be pulled over and ticketed for primary offenses, unlike secondary offenses, which drivers can be cited for only if they are pulled over for a separate primary offense, such as speeding.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Monroe, the bill would allow police to cite drivers for engaging in a pattern of aggressive driving – defined as two or more violations at the same time.

Under the measure, it would be illegal for motorists to make audible verbal threats, flash headlights, use demeaning gestures or other such actions directed at persons driving lawfully, Greenstein wrote.

The bill is named for Jessica Rogers of Hamilton, NJ. Rogers suffered severe injuries and was paralyzed from the neck down following a March 2005 wreck with another vehicle. The driver of the vehicle she was riding in hit a pole while trying to catch a car that cut him off. The driver was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation.

“Drivers who put their own selfish needs before the safety of the public must be held accountable,” Greenstein said in a written statement.

If signed into law, driving aggressively could net first-time offenders a 15- to 30-day license suspension and/or required attendance in an anger management class. Anyone foolish enough to do it again could lose their licenses for two to four months and/or pay up to $3,000 in fines.

If aggressive driving results in serious bodily injury to another person, violators could face up to five years in prison and/or $15,000 fines.

The bill – A4340 – is awaiting consideration on the Assembly floor. If approved there, it would move to the Senate. All legislation must be approved by 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