Road Rage Measure Honors Paralyzed Passenger [AUDIO]
A measure approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee would upgrade the penalties for certain road rage incidents. "Jessica's Law" was named after former Hamilton Township resident Jessica Rogers, who was 16 at the time of a horrific road rage accident in 2005.
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. Jessica was paralyzed from the chest down.
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 said, "I would've thought he would've went to jail for a few years at least and maybe after jail, probation, but that never happened."
She said she's happy that road rage could be included in the state's assault-by-auto statute and lead to enhanced punishments for individuals convicted under that law.
"I don't want a family to go through what I had to go through and what my family had to go through," she said. "It not only changed my life just being in a wheelchair, but it's an everyday struggle. I can't move my fingers. There are so many things that I can't do and it's all because of the road rage incident."
Under current law, road rage incidents that result in bodily or serious bodily injury would be subject to punishment in the fourth degree and as a disorderly persons offense. "Jessica's Law," sponsored by State Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14), would upgrade the penalties to third and fourth degree offenses.
A crime of the third degree would be punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree would be punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Greenstein said New Jersey has some of the most crowded roads in the nation, so all the ingredients are in place for aggressive driving.
She explained, "You have a lot of people in a rush to get places, a lot of stressed people, and a lot of cars. You're going to have incidents of road rage."