New Jersey's Hands-Free Cell Phone Law

New Jersey law has banned the use of hand-held cellular telephones while driving since January 2004, and yet many people continue to hold cell phones and talk or text while they drive.  Such activities not only are unlawful, but also create a huge safety risk.  Therefore, employers must be mindful to ensure that their employees comply with the law when driving a company vehicle or while doing any driving related to their work for the employer.  The law specifically prohibits the use of a hand-held communication device while operating a motor vehicle, but does allow drivers to use cell phones equipped with hands-free equipment, such as a Bluetooth®.
 
The law also includes some exceptions as to when a driver may use a hand-held telephone while operating a moving vehicle.  These exceptions are limited to situations when the driver:

          a.    has reason to fear for his/her safety or life;

          b.    believes that a criminal act may be committed against him/her or      
                 another person;

          c.    is reporting a fire, traffic accident or a medical condition; or

          d.    is reporting a reckless, careless or an unsafe driver who appears to be
                 driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

This law supersedes any local ordinances regarding the use of cell phones. While the penalty for violations ranges from $100.00 to $250.00, drivers will not receive points on their license for violations.

PRACTICE POINTER:  All employers should have written policies governing the use of cell phones while driving, which require employees to use a hands-free device.  The policy should state that violations of this policy will result in disciplinary action and possible denial of insurance coverage.  Employers also should ensure that all company owned or leased vehicles include hands-free equipment, and may consider reimbursing employees for the cost of a hands-free device.

For additional information on this topic, please contact Douglas S. Zucker at DSZ@zuckerhatfield.com, or Kathryn V. Hatfield at KVH@zuckerhatfield.com.