Jail possible in N.J. for texting drivers in accidents with injuries

Another measure aimed at cracking down on the use of cell phones while driving has been signed into law in New Jersey.

Instead of getting a traffic ticket, drivers who kill or injure someone while texting or talking on their cell phone could be sent to prison under the new law. It allows prosecutors to seek convictions for vehicular homicide or assault by auto.

Angela Donato of Washington Township says her sister and nephew were killed when a driver distracted by his cellphone crashed into their car last year. She says that caused her family to change their driving habits.

“We would always text and drive before, and we don’t text and drive anymore,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to be personally affected by it, you shouldn’t have to lose someone in order to know that it’s so dangerous and nothing is worth losing your life over.”

Joyce Vence of Elizabeth says her mother was trying to cross the street when she was struck and killed by a driver who was talking on a cellphone. She wants people to be focused while driving.

“You’re not even looking at the road when you’re texting,” she said. “And when you’re using a handheld cellphone, which is already illegal, you’re already breaking the law. So if you do choose to do that and you kill or seriously injure someone there has to be a penalty.”

Sponsors of the legislation say they hope the potential for jail time will convince drivers to stay off the phone while they’re behind the wheel.

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