7/13/2007New Jersey May Outlaw Giving the Finger
A proposed road rage law could outlaw giving the finger to other motorists in New Jersey.
Legislation approved last month by a New Jersey Assembly committee could outlaw using one's finger to express displeasure at the driving ability of fellow motorists. As part of "Jessica's Law," Assemblymen Linda R. Greenstein (D-Monroe) and Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) would create a new crime of "road rage" that bans expressive forms of communication frequently seen on Garden State roadways.
Specifically, it could be a crime to use: "Audible verbal threats or insults, flashing of headlights, use of demeaning gestures or other such actions directed at persons driving lawfully, which, in the manner used, would cause a reasonable person to believe that the action was designed to display anger or to intimidate or threaten the person."
To be illegal, those demeaning gestures must combine with speeding, following too closely, improper lane changing, failing to yield the right of way or running a stop light. Those meeting the criteria would pay up to a $1000 fine, earn a one-month license suspension and be forced to attend an anger management course. A second offense nets the state a $3000 fine, a four-month license suspension and another anger management course.
Lawmakers named the legislation after Jessica Rogers who had been paralyzed in a road rage accident in 2005. Then sixteen years old, Rogers had been a passenger in a vehicle that attempted to use a road shoulder to pass another car that had cut him off. The overtaking vehicle instead rammed a telephone pole and its driver was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation for the crime of assault by automobile under existing statutes.
Greenstein also introduced companion legislation that would create a "permissive inference" that the owner of a vehicle involved in a hit-and-run accident should be responsible for all the consequences of hit-and-run. The measure received unanimous approval from the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
ASSEMBLY, No. 4340
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, 212th LEGISLATURE
INTRODUCED JUNE 14, 2007
Assemblywoman LINDA R. GREENSTEIN, District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)
Assemblyman BILL BARONI, District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)
As reported by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on June 14, 2007, with amendments.
An Act concerning road rage and designated as Jessica's Law, and supplementing Title 39 of the Revised Statutes and amending N.J.S.2C:12-1.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. (New section) a. As used in this act:
"Act of road rage" means two or more of the following actions committed simultaneously or in immediate succession while operating a motor vehicle in close proximity to another vehicle during a single, continuous period [of driving for not more than five consecutive miles] :
(1) Excessive speeding involving any single offense for a speed of 25 miles per hour or more above the speed limit;
(2) Following a vehicle ahead too closely pursuant to R.S.39:4-89;
(3) Improper or erratic traffic lane changes;
(4) Improper overtaking or passing another vehicle off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway, unless in conformity with R.S.39:4-85;
(5) Failing to yield the right of way;
(6) Violating official traffic control devices as defined in R.S.39:1-1; or
(7) Audible verbal threats or insults, flashing of headlights, use of demeaning gestures or other such actions directed at persons driving lawfully, which, in the manner used, would cause a reasonable person to believe that the action was designed to display anger or to intimidate or threaten the person.
b. In addition to any other motor vehicle penalty, a person who engages in road rage:
(1) For a first offense shall have his license suspended for not less than 15 nor more than 30 days be subject to a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000, or both; and
(2) For a second or subsequent offense within 24 months, shall have his license suspended for not less than 60 nor more than 120 days, be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $3,000, or both.
(3) When notified by a court of competent jurisdiction that a person has been convicted of a violation of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission shall require the person to attend a training and education class on road rage or anger management that is either conducted or approved by the chief administrator, before reinstatement of the person's driver's license.
c. The chief administrator shall promulgate rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), in order to establish a program of training and education on road rage or anger management, as prescribed by this act.
[assault provisions of the legislation omitted]