Happy Cell Phone Courtesy Month! The annual observance began in 2002 in hopes of helping us all be more considerate — and safer — when combining communication, transportation, and everyday life.

You’ve probably encountered someone who could use a reminder about cell phone courtesy. We all have! Maybe you’ve even been guilty of it on occasion yourself.

Whether it’s talking and walking (and not looking), engaging in loud chatter at a restaurant, or tweeting during a face-to-face conversation, most of us have committed a smartphone faux pas once or twice in the past.

But as a Morris County personal injury law firm, there’s one cell phone courtesy issue that we want to emphasize for New Jersey drivers this month: texting while driving.

Staggering Statistics about Texting While Driving

Talking or texting while driving can be extremely dangerous. Consider the following figures:

  • Nearly 25% of all U.S. auto collisions involve cell phones (that’s more than 1 million crashes each year).
  • If you just glance at your phone for even 5 seconds while traveling 55 mph, you’ll drive the length of a football field before looking at the road again.
  • Talking on a handheld phone makes a crash 1.3x more likely. It gets even more dangerous while reaching for your device or dialing a number.
  • Texting while driving makes a crash 23x more likely!
  • Some studies find that, increasingly, parents are more likely to text and drive than their teenaged children.

Understanding New Jersey’s Cell Phone Driving Laws

New Jersey’s cell phone driving laws prohibit the handheld use of any device for talking or texting while driving. As of July 1, 2014, first-time offenders will face a minimum fine of $200. Repeat offenders can face much higher fines, as well as a 90-day suspension of driving privileges with a 3-point assessment against their driving record. “Use” under the law includes talking, listening to another person talk, and sending or receiving electronic messages.

Hands-free devices may be used for talking, though drivers are encouraged to do so sparingly. Additionally, handheld calls are permitted in emergencies, provided that the driver keeps one hand on the wheel at all times.

Cell Phone Safety Tips

It’s never too late to reflect on your driving habits and make changes. This Cell Phone Courtesy Month, take a moment to consider the following cell phone safety tips:

  • Turn your phone off or set it to “airplane mode” or “silent” while driving.
  • If you must type or dial, safely pull off the road first.
  • Install a hands-free system in your car, one that doesn’t interfere with the vehicle safety features, and learn to use it.
  • New habits take a little time to develop. If you force yourself to start ignoring your phone, it will become second nature in no time!

At The Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A., we want to see New Jersey’s roadways stay safe for everyone. If you have any questions about New Jersey’s cell phone driving laws, give us a call. We hope you all enjoy the remainder of Cell Phone Courtesy Month and have a fantastic summer!