Legislation cracking down on anyone who kills or injures another person while driving and illegally using a cell phone was signed into law today. The bill was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Paul D. Moriarty, Charles Mainor, Albert Coutinho and Gabriela Mosquera.
“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 law is named “Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis’ Law” after 89-year old Helen Kulesh who was tragically killed in Union County by a person who was using a cell phone while driving; husband and wife David and Linda Kubert of Dover Township who were both severely injured by a driver who was illegally using a cell phone; and Toni Donato-Bolis of Gloucester County, 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 new law will 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 previous law, a person is guilty of death or assault by auto when it is proven that he or she drove a motor vehicle recklessly. The new law 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 law 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 law will force drivers to think twice before they decide to tinker with their cell phones while behind the wheel.”
The new law goes into effect immediately. TLS.