Traffic Violations

What Classifies as Careless Driving in New Jersey?

Careless driving is one of the most common traffic violations drivers in New Jersey face. Governed by NJSA 39:4-97, careless driving is taken seriously in a court of law. Drivers charged with careless driving can face severe penalties, even if there was no accident. Careless driving charges are not as severe as reckless driving charges, however. The main difference between the two is the intent behind the action. Careless driving in New Jersey is any driving action that, without due cause, could potentially cause physical harm or property damage.

Reckless Driving vs. Careless Driving in New Jersey Law

Although the two charges sound similar, there are some differences between a careless driving charge and a reckless driving charge. The statute for careless driving is rather broad and relies heavily upon the police to judge whether a driver was careless, reckless, or neither. Because of this, a police officer must be able to prove with evidence that a driver was acting carelessly at the time of the accident or being pulled over. Acts of careless driving include:

  • Changing lanes without using blinkers
  • Tailgating
  • Braking suddenly
  • Failure to look before changing lanes or turning
  • Using a cell phone or other mobile device
  • Distracted driving 
  • Speeding (high speeding tickets are commonly associated with careless driving tickets)

These acts are not considered to be reckless driving unless other factors are in play. For example, tailgating and changing lanes alone are not reckless, but a police officer may charge you for reckless driving if you perform both acts while speeding. They would judge this as aggressive driving, which is not a careless driving case in New Jersey. 

Careless Driving Accidents

The most common reason drivers face charges for careless driving in New Jersey is causing an accident. While the fault in an accident itself can be a difficult process to prove, police officers on the scene and the court must prove that the driver was really acting carelessly for the charge to stick. There are many different reasons an accident can occur, and a police officer may simply charge a driver for careless driving, even if that wasn’t the case. Working with a New Jersey attorney can help you fight these charges and shine a light on the true culprit of the accident.

For example, you may stop suddenly if an animal or person runs out into the street. A police officer who responds to the accident may only hear that you braked suddenly and charge you with careless driving. However, careless driving acts have no due cause. Because you were stopping suddenly to avoid another collision, you could build a strong defense against your charge.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Careless Driving Consequences

Although they’re not nearly as harsh as reckless driving penalties, the consequences of a careless driving charge can still be detrimental. If you are found guilty of careless driving, you will have two points added to your license. Once you reach six points, you are more likely to incur hefty fines and surcharges from the NJ MVC. Careless driving charges can reach fines of up to $200, and subsequent offenses can add to both penalties. If you reach 12 points on your license, your driving privileges will be revoked, and you’ll have to attend classes and put in some time and effort to restore them.

The consequences of the law are not the only things you have to worry about with a careless driving charge, though. Drivers who are found guilty of careless driving often see an increase in their insurance premiums. This extra monthly charge can be more financially disruptive than a court fine. Even if you do get the careless driving charge dismissed, if you were involved in an accident, you’ll also see an increase in your monthly premium.

How a Lawyer Can Help with Careless Driving Tickets

A careless driving charge negatively affects your driving life. License points, fines, and increased insurance charges can all make life more difficult. And if an accident is part of the charge, you have even more to deal with. Because NJSA 39:4-97 is a broad coverage statute that relies on judgment, the courts must have proof of carelessness in order to officially charge you with careless driving. Working with a New Jersey careless driving attorney can help.

A lawyer can build you a strong defense that helps mitigate charges and lessens any punishments you may face. Having a lawyer on your side is also helpful if there was an accident. Careless driving aside, an attorney can help determine and prove fault. They’ll defend you in court and help you navigate the insurance claims process if needed. The knowledge and experience a careless driving attorney brings to the table is more than helpful during your case.

Are You Facing Careless Driving Charges in New Jersey?

If you face a careless driving charge in New Jersey, your life can see serious impacts. The accumulation of license points with added fees and insurance complications makes any careless driving ticket a headache. Attorney Leon Matchin has devoted his practice to helping drivers fight their careless driving charges and deal with the aftermath of accidents. His years as an experienced New Jersey lawyer allow him to build a strong defense for his clients and help them navigate the court process. If you’re facing careless driving charges, contact Attorney Leon Matchin today at (833) 732-7320, or email him at

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