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Madden Bill To Reduce Secondary Car Accidents Clears Senate

Bill Would Allow Drivers to Move Cars Out of the Way of Traffic in Minor Accidents

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden, which would work to reduce the number of secondary car accidents by allowing drivers who have been in minor collisions to move their cars out of the way of traffic, was unanimously approved today by the full Senate.

“According to the State Department of Transportation, 20% of all accidents are ‘secondary,’ meaning they were caused as the result of another accident,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester, a former Acting Superintendent of the State Police, who serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Drivers are reluctant to move their cars because they think they might get charged with leaving the scene of an accident, and also because they think that moving their cars would hinder police officers’ ability to determine what caused the accident. This legislation would send a clear message that as long as no one is injured, moving cars out of the way of traffic is useful because it would reduce the number of preventable secondary accidents.”

Under Senator Madden’s bill, S-998, vehicles would have to be able to be operated under their own power. Drivers would then be directed to remain with the car once it is moved from the roadway.

If a driver refuses to move the car, police would be authorized to remove it from the road, and the driver would be fined $200 for refusing to comply.

“For every minute a lane is closed, it creates roughly 5 minutes of recovery time, which means that traffic will be backed up,” said Senator Madden, citing a Federal Highway Administration statistic. “It’s no secret that New Jersey’s roadways are some of the most congested in the nation. This bill would help to cut down on road delays and help traffic to flow smoothly.”

The bill would also toughen penalties for drivers who leave the scene of an accident. A first offense of leaving the scene of an accident where no one is injured would result in possible fines of up to $400, up to 30 days in jail, and a six-month driver’s license suspension. Drivers could be fined $600, plus 30 days in jail and a one year driver’s license suspension for subsequent offenses.

The legislation also calls upon the Commissioner of Transportation to undertake a public awareness campaign about the safety features of moving cars away from minor accident scenes.

This legislation was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee on February 21. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.