New Jersey bill proposes new penalties for crosswalk deaths
Cape May readers may be interested to learn about a bill headed for consideration by the New Jersey state senate that proponents say will help eliminate a disparity in punishment dependent upon the circumstances under which a driver causes the death of a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The bill would create an enhanced traffic violation penalty when a driver recklessly causes the death of a pedestrian in a crosswalk, even under circumstances that would not support criminal vehicular homicide charges.
As the law stands now, the maximum penalty for hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a $200 fine and 15 days of mandatory community service. The fine remains the same even if the pedestrian dies as a result of the accident. If it can be proved that the driver committed gross negligence, such as fatal drunk driving, the driver may then be charged with vehicular homicide and face potentially serious consequences.
The new bill proposes to modify New Jersey’s pedestrian safety law in order to create an enhanced penalty for reckless non-criminal acts, such as failing to yield at a crosswalk, that result in a pedestrian’s death. The enhanced penalty could lead to fines up to $1,000, six months of community service, a one year driver’s license suspension and up to 90 days in prison.
Supporters of the bill expect that it will lead to more equitable treatment of drivers who cause the wrongful death of a pedestrian in a crosswalk by conduct that does not rise to the level of gross negligence. The bill may fill a gap in current law, but it may also blur the distinction between an unfortunate accident and conduct that supports a vehicular homicide charge. If passed, this bill may make it more important than ever for New Jersey residents in a pedestrian accident to consult with an experienced defense attorney.
Source: nj.com, “NJ senate panel OKs pedestrian-safety bill inspired by 2010 death of Bayonne woman,” Sarah Nathan, Dec. 18, 2012