Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Jersey Legislature must act immediately on proposal to create limited use drivers license

It is not perfect, but New Jersey Bill S-1259 is a good start.  If passed and signed into law, it would create a special drivers license for use for work and school only.  State Senator Shirley Turner sponsored the bill, and should be applauded for her support for motorists rights, but proposal of a bill is only the beginning.

There are several dozen ways that a motorist can have his or her New Jersey driving privilege suspended, and only a handful of them have anything to do with roadway safety.  In New Jersey, we all depend on our cars and our driving privilege.  As such, a drivers license suspension is a devastating blow to a working person.  To temper the law with some mercy and perhaps some common sense, State Senator Shirley Turner is sponsoring bill number S-1259, which would create restricted use drivers licenses.

The driver would have to meet the following criteria for the court to approve an application for a restricted use license:

(1) his place of employment or education and the hours during which he is employed or attending classes;
(2) the hours during which and the locations between which it is necessary for him personally to operate a motor vehicle;
(3) that no means of public transportation to his place of employment or education exists within one mile of his home;
(4) whether and, if so, in what manner he is required to operate a motor vehicle as a condition of employment;
(5) that he has no other reasonable means of traveling to and from the place of employment or education or of pursuing his employment or education other than by the personal operation of a motor vehicle; and
(6) that he or his family, or both, will suffer substantial financial or other hardship if he is unable to personally operate a motor vehicle.

However, no one who has been suspended under the following circumstances would be eligible:

(1) the person forfeited his license pursuant to section for excessive points, or failure to carry liability insurance;
(2) death or serious bodily injury resulted during the commission of the offense for which the person’s license has been forfeited;
(3) the offense for which the person forfeited his license involved driving at a speed more than 15 miles in excess of the legal limit, or a violation of reckless driving, or illegally passing a school bus; or
(4) the person has been convicted of driving while suspended.

While Senator Turner should be applauded for pushing the idea of a restricted use license, the bill does not go far enough.  It is difficult to argue with the proposition that dangerous drivers should be barred from consideration.  However, is everyone who drives without liability insurance a dangerous driver?  Indeed, isn’t it usually the case that those who choose to drive without insurance that they can’t afford it?  Clearly, they should be allowed to get to work.  The driving without liability insurance law is one that cries out for some judicial discretion.  As it stands now, a first offense carries a mandatory one year license suspension.  Allowing for a restricted use license for a driver convicted of driving without liability insurance would give the municipal court just that discretion.

Posted by W. Timothy Howes, Esq. on 02/15 at 10:34 PM
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