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Careless Driving With a CDL License in New Jersey 

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Written By 
Last updated 
June 10, 2024
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Careless driving in New Jersey can be a serious concern for any driver in New Jersey. However, for commercial drivers license (CDL) holders, careless driving offenses are even more serious. CDL holders are more highly regulated than other drivers, and as such there can be additional consequences if they drive carelessly.

A Rosenblum Law traffic attorney can help CDL holders accused of careless driving in New Jersey understand what they are facing and represent them in court. In this article, we explain the charge and its implications.

Understanding Careless Driving Laws in New Jersey

Section 39:4-97 of the New Jersey Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation Code defines careless driving as driving “without due caution and circumspection, in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger a person or property.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that CDL holders must obey rules that other drivers do not. For example, these rules dictate the number of hours CDL drivers can be on the road without a break and prescribe lower blood alcohol limits for driving under the influence. As such, what is considered careless driving for a CDL driver could be different from what is considered careless driving for other drivers. 

It is important to note that the higher standard for CDL holders applies even if the driver was in a personal vehicle at the time of the offense. 

Consequences of Careless Driving for CDL Holders

The general consequences of careless driving in New Jersey are:

  • A fine of up to $250 + court costs (if applicable)
  • Up to 15 days in jail
  • 2 points on the driver’s NJ license
  • Surcharges for drivers convicted of six points or more with of traffic tickets
  • Commercial auto insurance increases

CDL drivers can expect to pay higher fines and penalties for careless driving than other drivers. In addition, some careless driving offenses can impact CDL status and employment. 

For a second offense of careless driving, a CDL holder will lose their license for 60 days. For a third or subsequent offense, a suspension of 120 days will be enforced. A suspension of a CDL license can lead to periods of unemployment, which makes it very important to fight a careless driving charge. 

Factors Contributing to Careless Driving Incidents

Erratic lane changes, speeding, tailgating, and use of a handheld mobile device are a few of the causes of careless driving.  Among CDL holders, careless driving can also be caused by being overly tired from spending too many hours behind the wheel. 

Professional drivers face many challenges on the road, especially when driving larger commercial vehicles. For example, these vehicles have significant blind spots, and not all drivers are cautious around them. As a result, another driver might cut off a commercial driver, causing the CDL holder to appear to be tailgating. Often CDL drivers must compensate for the behaviors of other drivers. 

Legal Defenses Against Accusations of Careless Driving with a CDL license

There are a variety of legal defenses against accusations of careless driving with a CDL license, depending on the circumstances of the case. The easiest defense is to challenge the evidence presented by law enforcement. For example, if speeding at less than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, one might be able to challenge the accuracy of an officer’s speed sensing equipment. 

Another potential defense is to argue necessity or emergency circumstances. If the CDL driver or someone in their vehicle has been injured and is on the way to the hospital, careless driving charges may be dismissed. Similarly, if the driver is using a handheld mobile device to notify law enforcement or the hospital of an emergency situation, this too might be a defense against careless driving.

The driver can also try to demonstrate that they were obeying traffic laws and safety protocols. For example, they could show that they did not exceed the maximum allowed hours behind the wheel. In addition, if there was an accident with other vehicles involved, the CDL driver can try to argue that they were at fault because they followed too closely or committed some other driving infraction.

How an Attorney Can Assist Someone Accused of Careless Driving with a CDL License

An experienced traffic attorney can assist someone accused of careless driving with a CDL license in New Jersey in a number of ways. In the initial consultation and case evaluation, the attorney can determine the likelihood of successfully getting the charge reduced or dismissed. The attorney will also gather evidence and witness testimony to support the driver’s case.

With evidence and witness testimony in hand, the attorney can develop a defense strategy. For example, they might be able to prove that there were extenuating circumstances or that another driver caused the CDL driver to act in a manner that appeared reckless. Attorneys can also negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or penalties. A two-point careless driving charge might be reduced to a zero-point offense, for example. 

If the case goes to court, the attorney will represent the accused, making arguments and presenting evidence on their behalf. The attorney can also advise on the consequences of the charge for the CDL driver and any mitigating factors that might come into play. 


What is considered “careless driving” under New Jersey law?

Careless driving is driving that could potentially harm a person or property. It encompasses such things as aggressive driving, speeding, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, or using a cellular device while driving (though this is usually charged under 39:4-97.3). 

How are careless driving charges different for CDL holders?

CDL holders have more to lose from a conviction for careless driving than many other people because driving is their livelihood. Thus, rather than just facing fines and points on the license, CDL drivers could face suspension of their license and loss of employment. CDL drivers must obey rules that don’t apply to other drivers, so something that does not constitute careless driving for the average driver might still be considered careless driving for a CDL holder. In addition, being convicted of Careless Driving can significantly increase auto insurance rates, which are often higher for a commercial driver to begin with.

What should I do if I'm accused of careless driving with a CDL license in New Jersey?

If you are accused of careless driving with a CDL license in New Jersey, you should contact an attorney immediately for assistance. An attorney might be able to negotiate the offense to a lesser charge with lower penalties and fewer points. 

Can I fight a careless driving charge if I believe it was unjustified?

Yes. There are a number of possible defenses to careless driving charges. Evidence can also come into play. For example, witnesses or dashcam video may prove that the driving behavior was objectively not careless. An attorney can advise you as to which defenses apply to your case. 

How long does it take to resolve a careless driving case for CDL holders?

This depends on several factors, including when a court date can be scheduled. Most traffic court dates are scheduled within 30 days of the ticket being issued. 

Can I still drive commercially while facing careless driving charges?

You may be able to drive commercially while facing careless driving charges if it is your first offense. If your CDL is suspended for subsequent offenses, you will not be able to drive commercially until the case is resolved and your license is reinstated. 

Call a Rosenblum Law Traffic Attorney for Your CDL Careless Driving Case

Careless driving can have a significant impact on CDL holders. With higher fines and penalties, and the potential to lose one’s license or employment, it is important to have legal representation in defending against careless driving charges. 

Rosenblum Law has attorneys with extensive experience in defending against traffic violations for CDL holders, including careless driving charges. Contact us today at 973-750-9556 for more information or to schedule your free consultation.

Author Bio

Adam H. Rosenblum

Founding Attorney Of Rosenblum Law

Adam H. Rosenblum is an experienced and skilled traffic violations and criminal defense attorney. Mr. Rosenblum provides expert and aggressive representation to those facing points on their drivers’ licenses and the associated fines and surcharges.

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