Ticket for Improper Use of a Cell Phone While Driving

This is another one of those articles that’s a little off topic but a bit related.  A family member of mine recently received a ticket improper use of a cell phone while driving so I began to check into it (Keep in mind as you read this that I’m not an attorney and this article isn’t legal advice, simply a discussion of her dilemma).  This took place in New Jersey where the penalties for doing this have recently increased substantially.  First time offenders will receive a fine of at least $200 but not more than $400. The fine for a second offense is at least $400 but no more than $600 and drivers who do it a third time (or more), get to pay $600-$800.  Also, beginning with the third offense, you also get charged 3 points and there may be a 90-day driver license suspension.  By the way, each time you get a ticket for doing this, you have to go to court.  No mailing in of a payment.  And for what it’s worth, this stays on your record for ten years, so if you get caught doing this in 2014 and then don’t get caught until 2023, it’s your second offense however if you get caught in 2025, it’s counted as your first offense and the calendar starts all over again.

In short, getting caught doing this is a bad idea.The New Jersey Statute is known as 39:4-97.3.  Directly from this statute is the following statement as to the definition of cell phone use: “Use” of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device shall include, but not be limited to, talking or listening to another person on the telephone, text messaging, or sending an electronic message via the wireless telephone or electronic communication device.  It then goes on to say you cannot initiate any of these functions while holding the phone.

So I asked her what she was doing and she told me she was turning on her GPS application.  Well that’s not texting or even talking on the phone, that’s turning on an application.  Turns out the rules aren’t totally clear regarding this activity and that others have successfully defended themselves against one of these tickets by stating they were turning on the phone, or initiating an application.

Now if you’re going to use this defense, you will need to be able to show definitive proof that’s what you were doing.  I have no idea how you would do this outside of pulling some sort of activity log from your cellular carrier to show the court what you were not texting or making a call.  The law also provides for emergency situations as being allowable, for example you were calling 911 for help.

So what did my family member do, armed with this information?  The answer:  she went to court and paid a $200 fine plus court costs.The moral of the story is don’t touch your phone in a moving vehicle, it’s likely going to be awarded with a ticket one day and could lead to an accident or worse.Readers of this site know I am a big Waze fan.  I often wonder how many people reporting incidents in Waze are driving while doing that.  Hopefully it’s done by a passenger.  Reporting a car in the shoulder takes the pushing of several buttons in Waze, and at the end of the day, it isn’t a terribly important bit of information, so leave that type of reporting to passengers that have nothing better to do versus the driver.

After you have turned on Waze while parked, you should place it in a car mount and not touch it You can read an article about cell phone car mounts here.