Legislation signed into law by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno now makes it possible to charge drivers with vehicular homicide if they kill someone while using a hand-held cell phone.
“If you drink and drive, you’re reckless, and a prosecutor can charge you. Now if you text and drive, you can be charged with reckless driving,” Guadagno said, according to NorthJersey.com.
The measure will be known as the “Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis’ Law,” for three victims of distracted-driving crashes in New Jersey.
Helen Kulesh was an 89-year-old killed by a driver on a cell phone while walking to a grocery store in 2006. David and Linda Kubert were seriously injured in 2009 after being struck by a distracted driver while riding a motorcycle together. Reports said each of them lost a leg in the accident.
Toni Donato-Bolis was killed by a driver who was allegedly texting in 2011. She was nine months pregnant at the time, and her unborn son did not survive.
The bill’s co-sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty said people aren’t getting the message. He said, according to nj1015.com, “No one would drive down the street with a martini in their hand and think that that was okay, yet people are going down the street every day texting, looking at their GPS, playing ‘Words with Friends’ and they don’t get the idea that this is incredibly dangerous. We have to send a strict message here in New Jersey.”
A reckless driver who kills someone can be charged with vehicular homicide, punishable by five to 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $150,000. A reckless driver who injures someone can now be charged with assault by auto. That can be punishable by up to 18 months in jail, and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000, depending upon the severity of the injuries, according to an Associated Press report on sfgate.com.