New Jersey lawmakers advance bills targeting unsafe motorists

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/28/2012

Despite the late calendar date, lawmakers in New Jersey continue to discuss, and vote on, efforts that include driver safety.

Addressing concerns about unsafe driving, the Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill that would revise penalties. The bill – S82 – awaits further consideration in the Assembly.

State 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 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 release. “Penalty points often cause auto insurance rates to increase 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.

Bateman’s bill is in the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee.

Another bill of note would put in place a “three strikes” policy when dealing with distracted drivers. First-time offenders would face fines between $200 and $400 – up from $100. Repeat offenses could result in $600 fines, while subsequent offenses could cost as much as $800.

Third-time offenders would also face the loss of driving privileges for 90 days. In addition, three points would be added to licenses.

“New Jersey has appropriately tough laws on the books regarding drinking while driving,” Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, previously stated. “But penalties for texting while driving are a mere slap on the wrist, so now it is time for a slap in the face.”

The bill – S69 – awaits Assembly floor consideration. If approved, it would need Senate approval of changes before it can move to the governor’s desk.

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

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