New Jersey bills target unsafe driving

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Jersey state lawmakers don’t have to concern themselves this fall with winning re-election. The Garden State is one of a handful of states that holds statehouse elections in odd-numbered years. Only U.S. Senate and House seats are on this year’s fall ballots in the state. Instead, it’s business as usual at the statehouse, and recent business includes bills related to driver safety.

Addressing concerns about unsafe driving, the state’s Senate Transportation Committee voted on Wednesday, Oct. 15, to advance a bill that would revise penalties. It awaits further consideration on the Senate floor.

New Jersey law now authorizes for motorists who are convicted of unsafe driving one or two times to face fines. Subsequent offenses within five years can also result in penalty points.

Sponsored by Sen. Kip Bateman, R-Somerville, the bill – S82 – would increase fine amounts, but offer some forgiveness to avoid points.

“It provides motorists with a limited opportunity to pay enhanced fees to avoid the imposition of penalty points on their driver’s licenses,” Bateman said in a statement. “These points often cause auto insurance rates at a much higher cost than fines.”

Bateman said his bill clarifies that drivers will be eligible for points-forgiveness twice in five years. After drivers wear out the amnesty, they could be assessed four penalty points.

In addition, the minimum fine on drivers with more than three unsafe driving offenses would increase from $250 to $500.

A separate bill still in the Senate Transportation Committee would boost penalties for travelers who ignore road closures and drive through flooded areas. Pennsylvania implemented a similar rule last month.

The New Jersey version would fine violators $250 and require them to pay towns for any rescue that is necessary. State law now limits penalties to a $100 fine.

Bateman said that the frequency of violations in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene a year ago convinced him that stiffer penalties are needed.

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

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