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New Jersey § 39:4-97 Careless Driving Lawyer

Careless driving is not as severe of a charge as reckless driving or driving under the influence, but it can still carry fines and penalties.  Since careless driving is not as severe as reckless driving, many people charged with reckless driving actually seek to plea their case down to careless driving or have police ticket them for this instead of reckless driving.

The New Jersey careless driving lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych handle traffic ticket and criminal cases for drivers in New Jersey, working to get tickets dropped and dismissed and keep points off your license.  For a free legal consultation on your careless driving ticket, call our attorneys today at (609) 616-4956.

What Constitutes Careless Driving Under New Jersey Law?

New Jersey’s careless driving statute is quite broad and covers a lot of potential driving problems.  The issue with broad laws like this is that police could probably pull a driver over and issue a ticket for careless driving for many of the things that drivers do on a daily basis.  Because of this, careless driving is not typically charged by itself, or else police would be writing tickets all day long.  Instead, careless driving is usually charged after an accident or in a situation where a driver does something that seems dangerous in conjunction with another traffic offense, but they did not do something “bad enough” to warrant reckless driving charges.

N.J.S.A. § 39:4-97 defines careless driving as driving “without due caution and circumspection.”  This means that the driver was not using the amount of care and skill that they should have when driving, or that they were not properly focusing their mind on the road.

Moreover, the way they are driving must be one that would “endanger, or be likely to endanger” another person or their property.  This means that there must usually be the possibility of hurting someone else or damaging property.

Reckless driving and careless driving are quite similar, in that both laws make it illegal to drive in a way that could hurt others or cause property damage.  However, the main difference between these two laws is the mental state of the driver: careless driving is done without using proper caution, whereas reckless driving is a much higher level of negligence, dealing with “willful or wanton disregard” of other peoples’ safety.

Examples of Careless Driving in NJ

Careless driving, as mentioned, can be construed broadly to include many dangerous acts done behind the wheel.  That could mean that speeding or making a rolling stop at a stop sign could be considered “careless.”  However, there are other laws that cover these issues already, so these laws are unlikely to be charged as careless driving, but would instead be charged as speeding or running a stop sign, respectively.

Careless driving, instead, is usually charged to cover dangerous or questionable driving that does not fall squarely into any other statute.  That could include the kinds of behavior that lead to a car accident, since a car accident should almost never occur if everyone involved was driving safely.

Careless driving, as a “catch-all” traffic offense, usually covers behavior such as the following:

  • Tired driving
  • Ignoring caution signs
  • Ignoring other drivers’ signals or movements on the road
  • Driving too fast for wet or icy road conditions
  • Distracted driving

Other issues might also be charged as careless driving.  However, these charges are not always appropriate because other laws might overlap with these charges.

Points and Penalties for Careless Driving in NJ

Careless driving is a traffic offense, which means that it is not a “crime” in New Jersey.  However, you may still want to work with a criminal defense attorney to avoid the potential penalties associated with these charges if you were charged inappropriately or might face a license suspension because of these charges.

Careless driving under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-97 is a ticketable offense and can result in fines.  In most cases, fines will range somewhere between $50 and $150 for the first offense.  Some first-time offenders may be able to avoid points on their license as well.  However, repeat offenders will be asked to pay an increased fine, capping off at $500 for multiple repeat offenses.  If points are assessed on your license, you will usually receive 2 points on your driver’s license.

If you accumulate enough points on your license, your license might be suspended.  For this to happen, you must accumulate 12 points on your license.  If you go 1 year without accumulating more points, 3 points will be taken off your license; if you take certain defensive driving courses, you can also get 2 points taken away.

It is important to remember that careless driving is a light charge.  However, if you face more severe charges at the same time – such as speeding or tailgating charges – you could face more points from one driving event.  This could potentially be enough to suspend your license or put you at risk of suspension.

If your license is suspended or you have a high number of points on your license, you might face increased car insurance premiums.  If your license is suspended, you might face annual surcharges from the Motor Vehicle Commission, and you will need to pay a restoration fee to get your license back.

Call Our Careless Driving Lawyers in New Jersey for a Free Case Consultation

If you were pulled over for careless driving, or you were charged with careless driving after being involved in a car accident or another issue on the road, contact an attorney.  The Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s New Jersey careless driving defense lawyers help fight traffic tickets and work to keep our clients on the road.  For a free legal consultation on your case, contact our lawyers today at (609) 616-4956.

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