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New Law Stiffens Criminal Charges in Car Accidents That Involved Texting

Lt. Governor signs bill named for New Jersey accident victims

A 79-year old woman walking to the grocery store in her own neighborhood was killed by a driver distracted by texting.

An unborn baby and his 28 year-old mother died after a driver was texting and collided with their vehicle.

A new law named in honor of five victims would change the penalties for drivers who create serious bodily harm or resulting fatalities in car accidents involving texting while driving.

At the signing of a new bill that would allow prosecutors to charge distracted drivers with vehicular homicide or assault, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said the drivers who maimed and killed as a result of texting would previously face traffic tickets.

The new law establishes "that when a person who is behind the wheel of a car and not using a hands-free cell phone device or is texting while driving commits what is considered a reckless act empowers prosecutors to charge the offender with committing vehicular homicide or assault when such type of accident occurs from these actions," according to a press release on the new law issued on Wednesday, July 18.

In 2011, Galloway Township Police issued 84 tickets for cell phone usage while driving, and to date, they've issued 35 tickets for the same reason in 2012, according to statistics provided by the police department on Friday, July 20.

Since Jan. 1 of last year, there were five accidents involving a driver using a cell phone while driving, and two of them resulted in injury, police said. There was one accident in which the driver was using a hands-free device, and that accident resulted in an injury, but there were no fatalities in any of the accidents, according to police statistics.

Over that same time period, there were a total of 1,606 crashes, police said.

Guadagno said that whether minor or fatal accidents come as a result of texting while driving, just as drivers shouldn't drink and drive neither should they text and drive.

“Because of the distraction of a cell phone, two people lost limbs, and three others died. Driving is a responsibility, not a right. Everyone must take that responsibility seriously. These are three cases of what heartbreak inattentive driving can cause. There is now a price to pay for such capricious acts," said Assemblymen Anthony M. Bucco, one of the sponsors of the legislation.

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