NJ Road Rage Bill Signed Into Law
Governor Chris Christie has signed into law a measure dubbed, "Jessica's Law." The bill strengthens the penalities for road rage incidents.
It's named after Jessica Rogers, who was 16 at the time of a horrific road rage accident and is now 23. Jessica 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. The driver served four months.
Jessica who is paralyzed says, “Four months that’s…..I’m serving a lifetime sentence if you think about it and four months, that’s nothing.”
"As a parent, Jessica Rogers' story hits close to home. It is the story of the worst fears we have for our children realized – when they are seriously harmed because of another person’s recklessness. Through the actions of an enraged driver, tragedy was levied on the Rogers family and justice was left out of reach because the laws of our state were not adequate to appropriately prosecute the crime," says Christie. "That is why today I am proud to sign this legislation that honors the fight of Jessica and her family over the past 7 years by fixing our laws. This bill enables our law enforcement officials to treat incidents of road rage that cause senseless harm as they should be – as serious and preventable crimes that cannot be tolerated."
Under the provisions of the bill, assault by auto or vessel is upgraded from a crime of the fourth degree to a crime of the third degree if a person operates an auto or vessel recklessly, in knowing disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property and causes serious bodily injury. Assault by auto or vessel is upgraded from a disorderly persons offense to a crime of the fourth degree if bodily injury results.
A crime of the third degree is punishable by term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000 or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punished by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of $1,000, or both.
“I’ve had numerous surgeries and I’ve been through so many things I can’t even name them, but finally this is happening. It’s a law,” says Jessica. “I hope it’ll make people think before they act whether they’re flipping people off, yelling at people, bumping into people, cutting people off.”
“Since New Jersey motorists drive on the nation’s most congested roads, it is of the utmost importance that they act in a rational and safe manner while behind the wheel,” says Senator Linda Greenstein, one of the bill’s prime sponsors. “When someone drives aggressively and in a rage-filled way, they can cause severe harm to their passengers or people in other cars. When something like this does occur, it is imperative that drivers are held accountable. Now with the enactment of ‘Jessica Rogers’ Law’ we can ensure justice for these victims.”