Despite being ranked as the No. 3 state for good drivers in U.S., New Jersey has a reputation as an awful place to drive. That could be due to the Garden State’s terribly designed infrastructure, high levels of congestion, or its strictly enforced traffic laws. Many drivers are well aware of the state’s tight rules on the legality of passing on the right, but NJ has a number of unique laws--not all of them traffic laws--that could surprise drivers visiting, passing through, or even those who have lived and worked in New Jersey for many years.
- 4:22-18 Pets in cars must be restrained or caged ($250 to $1,000)
In New Jersey, even dogs must wear seat belts. The state’s animal cruelty law makes it specifically illegal to transport a pet in a vehicle in a manner that could cause it harm. This means dogs must be belted in using a proper pet harness, and smaller animals including cats must be carried in crates that are belted down. It is also illegal for a driver to allow a dog to stick his/her head out of the car window. The fine for violating this is the steepest on this list, reaching up to $1,000 for those who do not comply. As per the statute:
A person who shall carry, or cause to be carried, a living animal or creature in or upon a vehicle or otherwise, in a cruel or inhumane manner, shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
Furthermore, a disorderly persons offense will show up on a criminal background check as it is a criminal offense.
- 39:4-92.1 Following fire department vehicle too closely back to fire station ($85)
Most drivers know to pull over or else make way for emergency vehicles, including fire trucks, that have their lights and sirens on; failing to do so is can result in an $85 fine. But it might surprise some to know an identical fine can be applied for following a fire truck too closely as it is returning to the station. According to the law:
It shall be lawful for any fire department vehicle when returning to its fire station from an emergency call to display a flashing red light visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of at least 500 feet to the rear of the vehicle and no driver of any vehicle other than one on official business shall follow any such vehicle displaying said light closer than 300 feet.
- 39:4-72 Failure to slow or stop on signal from driver of horse ($150)
While this may seem like an old law from the days when horses and cars shared the roads more readily, the statute was recently updated in 2004 and is very much enforced today. Drivers who don’t reduce speed around horses to 25 mph or who fail to stop when signaled by a rider/driver of a horse can get hit with a $150 fine. As per the statute:
When approaching or passing a person riding or driving a horse, a person driving a motor vehicle shall reduce the vehicle's speed to a rate not exceeding 25 miles an hour and proceed with caution. At the request of or upon a signal by putting up the hand or otherwise, from a person riding or driving a horse in the opposite direction, the motor vehicle driver shall cause the motor vehicle to stop and remain stationary so long as may be necessary to allow the horse to pass.
- 39:4-78 Carrying metal so as to create noise ($54)
Truckers and other workers carrying metal items must be deliberate in how their materials are loaded onto the vehicle. Drivers with metallic or other cargo clanking around can be fined $54. The statute states:
No person shall load a vehicle or drive a vehicle so loaded with iron or other material that may strike together, unless it is properly deafened so as to cause no unnecessary noise.
- 39:4-85 Honking before passing on the left ($85)
New Jersey is known for its strict rules about passing on the left. This is summarized in traffic law statute 39:4-85. But what many don’t know is the same statute includes a provision requiring a motorist to honk before passing another vehicle. It’s a largely antiquated provision and is rarely enforced but there’s nothing stopping an officer from issuing a ticket for it. The provision reads:
The driver of an overtaking motor vehicle not within a business or residence district shall give audible warning with his horn or other warning device before passing or attempting to pass a vehicle proceeding in the same direction
If you or someone you love has been charged with a traffic violation in New York or New Jersey, whether it is something uncommon like the ones mentioned above or a more traditional offense such as speeding or cell phone violations, you should consult with an attorney right away.