In New Jersey, there are specific laws in place to ensure that drivers operate their vehicles safely. Violations of these laws can result in traffic tickets, disorderly persons offense charges, and even allegations of indictable traffic crimes. Although our team of skilled traffic defense attorneys is capable of successfully defending our clients’ interests when they’re facing a traffic charge – or even allegations that they have committed an indictable crime – it is better to avoid a traffic offense scenario altogether. Below, our firm’s criminal defense attorneys break down NJ law on operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe matter.

What Does The Law Say About Unsafe Driving?

Simply put, it’s illegal to drive unsafely in a way that could potentially harm people or damage property. This isn’t just about speed; it’s about any driving behavior that’s deemed unsafe.

What Happens If You’re Found Guilty?

First Offense

If you’re caught driving unsafely for the first time, expect to pay a fine. The amount will be somewhere between $50 and $150. The good news? For this first offense, you won’t get any penalty points on your driving record.

Second Offense

If it happens again, the stakes go up. You’ll be looking at a fine between $100 and $250. Still, no penalty points will be added to your driving record for this second offense.

Third (Or More) Offenses

The third time’s not the charm here. If you’re caught driving unsafely three times or more, the fines increase further, ranging from $200 to $500. This time, you will also get four penalty points on your record.

What About Old Offenses?

If you’ve had a previous offense but it was more than five years ago, the law gives you a break. Any new offense won’t be considered “subsequent” or following the old one when it comes to adding penalty points.

Are There Any Additional Costs?

Driving unsafely in New Jersey comes with other financial consequences, and repeat offenses can also bring penalty points. It’s essential to be aware of these laws and always prioritize safe driving to avoid these penalties. A skilled traffic offense attorney can help you to navigate any charges you may face but driving defensively can help you to avoid needing our criminal defense attorney services altogether.

Potential Defenses For New Jersey’s Unsafe Driving Statute

If someone is charged under the New Jersey statute for driving in an unsafe manner, several defense strategies could potentially be employed, depending on the specific circumstances. Here are some possible defenses:

Lack Of Evidence

Argue that the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driving behavior was unsafe or likely to endanger a person or property.


Argue that the driving behavior was a result of an emergency situation and that the actions taken were the lesser of two evils. For instance, swerving abruptly might have been to avoid hitting a pedestrian.

Mistake Of Fact

Perhaps the driver believed their actions were safe based on the information available to them at the time.

Equipment Malfunction

Sometimes, the vehicle itself can be at fault. For example, if the brakes failed, leading to the unsafe driving behavior, it could be argued that the driver wasn’t at fault.

External Factors

Conditions like bad weather, poor road conditions, or actions of other drivers might have contributed to the appearance of unsafe driving.

Challenge The Officer’s Judgment

Argue that the police officer’s judgment or perspective was flawed or biased. For instance, what seemed like tailgating from one angle might have been a safe distance from another perspective.

Witness Testimony

Bring forward witnesses who can testify to the safety of your driving behavior or corroborate other defense claims.

It’s crucial to note that the effectiveness of these defenses will vary based on the facts of the case, the evidence presented, and the arguments of the state. If you or someone you know is charged under this statute, consulting with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney is essential to understand the best defense strategy for the specific circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions About New Jersey’s Unsafe Driving Laws

What Does It Mean To Drive “In An Unsafe Manner” In New Jersey?

The NJ statute defines driving in an unsafe manner as any driving behavior that could potentially harm people or damage property.

If I’m Caught Driving Unsafely, Will I Immediately Get Points On My License?

No, not immediately. For the first and second offenses, you won’t receive any penalty points. However, for the third offense or any subsequent ones, you will receive penalty points.

How Much Will I Be Fined For My First Unsafe Driving Offense?

For the first offense, the fine ranges from $50 to $150.

Are The Fines Higher For Repeated Offenses?

Yes, they are. For the second offense, the fine is between $100 and $250. For the third or more offenses, it’s between $200 and $500.

What If My Last Offense Was A Long Time Ago?

If your last offense was more than five years ago, a new offense won’t be considered as “following” the old one when assessing penalty points.

Remember, it’s always essential to drive safely and understand the local traffic regulations to avoid any penalties or additional charges.

Don’t Face Your Unsafe Driving Ticket Alone!

Received a ticket in New Jersey for unsafe driving? Ensure a solid defense by calling the criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall. With over 200 years of combined experience, our team of 11 criminal defense attorneys, including seven former prosecutors, are uniquely qualified to handle your case. Four of our lawyers held esteemed directorial positions in areas like the Drug, Gang, and Gun Task Force. We boast traffic defense lawyers who have been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Top 40 Under 40, and the Super Lawyers Rising Stars 2021 list – a list that acknowledges only 2.5% of attorneys in New Jersey. One more distinction? An attorney on our team is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Criminal Trial Attorney. Don’t compromise; contact us online or call (855) 925-4034 to speak with a capable criminal defense lawyer for free today!