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Accidents caused by angry drivers at issue in proposed NJ law

In 2005, a 16-year-old New Jersey teenager was paralyzed from the chest down in a single-car crash when the vehicle in which she was a passenger slammed into a telephone pole. A police investigation later revealed that road rage was responsible for the car accident. After being cut off by another vehicle, the driver of the car in which the girl was a passenger began speeding and weaving through traffic, and ultimately crashed the car.

The driver was criminally charged, and was eventually convicted of two counts of assault by auto. He was sentenced to just six months in jail and five years of probation.

Following the car accident, state lawmakers began pushing for additional penalties for drivers who operate their vehicles while engaged in road rage. Recently, a New Jersey Senate committee advanced a bill that would significantly increase the consequences for people who drive carelessly and recklessly as a result of anger and rage. The bill is nicknamed "Jessica's Law" after the girl who was paralyzed in the 2005 crash.

If the bill passes, people who are convicted of assault by auto or of road rage that causes serious bodily injury would face up to five years in jail and a $15,000 fine. A conviction of road rage that causes any bodily injury would result in an 18-month jail sentence and a $10,000 fine.

The bill defines road rage as "operating an automobile in an aggressive manner directed at another vehicle if bodily injury results," and includes speeding, making erratic lane changes, disregarding traffic signals, following another vehicle too closely and failing to yield to a right of way.

We will continue to update our blog with any new developments related to this bill.

If you or a family member has been injured in a car accident caused by road rage, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: NJ Today, "Bill To Increase "Road Rage" Penalties Advances," Feb. 17, 2012

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