A driver cut you off? Don’t let your anger out on the road. Legislation sponsored to crack down on reckless and aggressive drivers after a Mercer County incident left a teen-age girl paralyzed was approved by the full Assembly today by a vote of 69 to 0. The bill was sponsored by Assembly members Matthew Milam, Wayne DeAngelo and Dan Benson.
“Far too many motorists have been put in harm’s way, or worse, because another driver let their emotions run wild,” said Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “On our increasingly crowded roads, we need to send a message to reckless drivers that rank indifference to their fellow motorists will not go unpunished.”
The bill – dubbed “Jessica Rogers’ Law” – would include road rage in the state’s assault-by-auto statute and lead to enhanced punishments for individuals convicted under that law. The bill has been named after Jessica Rogers, a young woman from Hamilton, Mercer County, who suffered severe injuries and was left paralyzed from the chest down following a March 2005 auto accident that resulted from road rage.
“Any driver who allows their rage to control their actions behind the wheel essentially turns their vehicle into a deadly weapon,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “A simple slap on the wrist or ticket can no longer do.”
Jessica, who was 16 at the time of the accident and is now 23, testified at the Assembly Committee hearing last year and was in attendance with her family today for the Assembly vote. She was a passenger in a vehicle that slammed into a telephone pole after the driver – angered that he had been cut-off – attempted to illegally pass another car on the shoulder.
Both Jessica and another passenger were seriously injured in the wreck. The driver was convicted of two counts of assault by auto and sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation.
“Road rage is more than just an attitude; it can be a real threat to others. Drivers who senselessly disregard the safety of the public must be held accountable,” said Benson (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “I hope this bill will serve as a wake-up call for many and help prevent road rage in New Jersey.”
The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate. TLS.