Of all the states in the nation, New Jersey’s auto insurance regulations are among the trickiest. Any driver living in the state and looking to navigate the laws concerning insurance, licensing and even drunk driving is bound to get mixed up along the way. But with a little perseverance, any driver can become the ultimate informed consumer.
Like most states, auto insurance is mandatory in New Jersey. But, confusing for some drivers, the coverage limits are not specific. The state officially recommends a “basic minimum policy” but suggests that drivers instead opt for a “standard policy” which provides more coverage in the event of an accident. Under both plans, the state requires coverage for liability, personal injury and uninsured motorist coverage.
Under the basic minimum policy, a driver will carry $10,000 worth of coverage for bodily injury liability for all persons in an accident, $5,000 for property damage, $15,000 for personal injury protection per person and up to $250,000 for permanent or significant injuries. Under a standard policy, drivers will be covered with $15,000 for bodily injury liability for EACH person per accident, $30,000 for all persons per accident, $5,000 for property damage and $250,000 per person for both personal injury protection and for permanent or significant injury.
All drivers must carry with them a New Jersey Insurance Identification card for each vehicle covered under the insurance policy at all times. If you are caught driving without a card, you may be ticketed and fined. If you are caught driving without auto insurance at all, the penalties are even more severe. Penalties range from license and registration suspension, fines, community service and even jail time. If you are caught again, you car could be impounded.
Unfortunately for New Jersey drivers, the state has one of the highest insurance rates in the country. As the 2nd most expensive state, drivers pay about $1,152 a year for coverage. The national average is only $817.
In addition to insurance policies, New Jersey takes its drunk driving laws very seriously. New Jersey is one of many states which adhere to an implied consent law. This means that by driving on New Jersey roads, you automatically consent to a chemical test is an officer suspects you are driving under the influence.
In New Jersey, a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% or higher is considered under the influence. For a driver with a BAC over .15%, the penalties are even stricter. Any drunk driver will have his license suspended immediately and there is no option to have your license reinstated while awaiting trial. For first offenses, 30 days in jail is a possibility, as well as license suspension for up to 90 days and up to $400 in fines. For second offenses, there are up to $1,000 in fines, 30 days of jail time and license suspension for 7-12 months. For any offender, there is a mandatory drunk driving program, at your expense, as well as $1,000 worth of surcharges on your insurance policy for the next 3 years.
For teens, New Jersey has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drunk driving. This means that any teen caught with even a drop of alcohol in their system is subject to penalties.
In order to make safer drivers in the future, New Jersey introduced its own version of the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program for teens. You must be at least 16 years of age to begin the program and there are several requirements to be met before you can become a fully licensed driver.
The first phase is the permit phase, where a teen driver must pass a written test and complete 50 hours of driving practice, 10 of which are to be completed at night. For drivers under 17, there is also a requirement of 6 extra hours of behind-the-wheel training. Once a teen has completed these steps, he can apply to take his road test. Upon passing the test, he is awarded with a probationary license. For both of these steps, it is necessary to display a GDL identifier on the car. After a teen has remained in the probationary period for one year, he then becomes a full licensed driver, with all the privileges as an adult.
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