Text while driving is illegal in New Jersey, but up until now the fines for committing the offense haven’t been too serious. Currently, the fine is only around $50 per infraction, which doesn’t go far to deter drivers who can’t put their smart phones down. That’s about to change in the hopes of decreasing violent car accidents, according to The Trentonian. The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously this week to increase the fines and penalties for drivers who text. The new escalating fines start at $100 to $200 for the first offense, $400 for the second offense, and a wallet-crunching $600 for a third strike. Additionally, repeat offenders can also have their driving privileges suspended for 90 days and acquire three points on their drivers’ licenses. Accumulating points on licenses can lead to further suspensions and increased auto insurance premiums.

Driver distraction is the leading cause of car accidents in New Jersey and other states across the country, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Texting while behind the wheel not only takes focus away from the road; it bares striking similarities to trying to drive while blindfolded. Many drivers, particularly teens, don’t realize how far vehicles can actually travel while their heads are down looking at their cell phones.

A car traveling at highway speed can cross the length of a football field in the time it takes to send a single text message. Can anyone really make an argument that that’s anywhere approaching safe?

The responsibility of texters has also faced a recent battle in New Jersey Superior Court. Judge David Rand ruled the sender of a text message, Shannon Colonna, can’t be held liable for the motorcycle accident that resulted in David and Linda Kubert losing their legs. The driver, Kyle Best, who received that text message, is still liable for those injuries.

New Jersey is trying to be a leader when it comes to banning cell phone use on its roadways. The state is one of nine in the country that ban all handheld devices behind wheel and one of 35 that makes texting while driving illegal.

A car accident resulting from a distracted driver can be devastating. The lack of any defense moves prior to the crash can lead to extensive damage and life-threatening injuries. If you or someone you loved has suffered injuries at the hands of a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Contacting a team of experienced car accident attorneys in New Jersey is the best strategy to preserve your rights and win the best settlement for your losses.