Quijano, Moriarty, Mainor, Coutinho and Mosquera Measure is Named After NJ Residents Killed & Injured by Drivers Using Cell Phones
(TRENTON) – The Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Paul D. Moriarty, Charles Mainor, Albert Coutinho and Gabriela Mosquera cracking down on anyone who kills or injures another person while driving and illegally using a cell phone.
“Tragedies like the ones the Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis families endured are made all the more tragic by the fact that they could have been avoided if the other driver hadn’t been so careless,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Hopefully these stiffer penalties will be a wake-up call to drivers who are willing to put their own life, as well as those of innocent other people, at risk.”
The bill (A-1074) is named “Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis’ Law” after Helen Kulesh who was tragically killed by a person who was using a cell phone while driving, David and Linda Kubert who were both severely injured by a driver who was illegally using a cell phone, and Toni Bolis and her unborn son, Ryan Jeffrey Bolis, who died in a motor vehicle accident that was allegedly caused by a person who was using a cell phone while driving.
The bill would make it easier for prosecutors to obtain convictions for vehicular homicide or assault by auto against a person who illegally uses a cell phone while driving and, as a result, kills or injures someone. Under current law, a person is guilty of death or assault by auto when it is proven that he or she drove a motor vehicle recklessly. This bill specifically provides that the illegal use of a cell phone while driving may give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly.
Vehicular homicide is generally a crime of the second degree, punishable by imprisonment of five to ten years, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Assault by auto is a crime of the fourth degree if serious bodily injury occurs and a disorderly persons offense if bodily injury occurs. A fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The penalty for a disorderly persons offense is imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
“Too many people have lost their lives at the hands of drivers who were distracted while talking on, texting or checking their cell phones,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Taking your eyes off the road even for a few seconds to check your cell phone could make the difference between life and death, and for some of these families, it did in the most tragic way. Enough is enough.”
“If you’re driving, updating your Facebook status or checking in on Foursquare can wait. Distracted driving is irresponsible and can have devastating consequences,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “To those individuals who think they can maneuver a car just fine while using their cell phones, I ask them to think about the Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis families and reconsider.”
“Any driver willing to play Russian Roulette with other people’s lives should face the stiffest penalties possible,” said Coutinho (D-Essex/Union). “Hopefully this bill will send a clear signal to drivers that unless they take personal responsibility, they will be facing much harsher consequences if a tragedy occurs.”
“No phone call is important enough to risk injuring or worse taking a life. If it is, then find a safe spot on the road and pull over,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “People who insist on using their cell phones while driving are a menace on the road. I hope this bill will force drivers to think twice before they decide to tinker with their cell phones while behind the wheel.”
The bill was unanimously released and now heads to the full Assembly for further consideration.