NJ Drunken Driving News: Could Boosting Fines for Stay-Right Traffic Law Increase DWI Arrests?

It should come as no surprise that many drunk driving arrests arise from another, sometimes simple, traffic violation. Whether or not a driver is pulled over in Union, Passaic or Somerset County, a traffic stop can result from something as seemingly minor as a failure to signal a lane change. But once that motorist has been pulled over for a small traffic infraction, the officer in charge has the opportunity to examine the driver for signs of intoxication.

As New Jersey DWI-DUI defense attorneys, I and my staff of experienced drunk driving defense lawyers understand what goes into making a successful DWI conviction, or an acquittal. As a former municipal prosecuting attorney, I have worked the other side of the aisle, which gives me additional insight into the strategies and tactics that the state uses to attain a conviction.

Of course, the process all starts out on the street, typically after the aforementioned and, for the officer, routine traffic stop. While a percentage of DWI arrests stem from sobriety checkpoint encounters, most can be said to take place when a patrolman observes a violation in progress. One of the potential violations is not keeping to the right, except to pass.

While it is difficult to know how often State Police and local patrolmen see a vehicle not adhering to the stay-right law and don’t stop that car or truck, it’s a fair bet that where there’s money to be made (read: increased fines), there is potential for increased enforcement.

Recent moves in Trenton have pointed to added fines for drivers who do not obey the stay-right law currently on the books. Whether or not such fines will spur more traffic stops is difficult to predict, but one can be sure that any time there are more motorists being pulled over, additional traffic tickets and summonses will likely be issued — including those for DWI, drug DUI, breath test refusal and other alcohol- and drug-related offenses.

According to news articles, New Jersey State Senator Donald Norcross is behind an effort to increase penalties for motorists who ignore the state’s “keep-right except to pass” law. The current statute requires drivers to stay in the far-right lane except when attempting to overtake another motor vehicle, or when setting up for a left turn.

Based on news reports, the senator’s proposed bill would up the maximum fine from the current $100 penalty to $300 for those drivers who fail to observe the “keep right” law. According to articles, the part of the increased fine will go to a fund that would be used to create and maintain signage reminding motorists to keep right when driving in the Garden State.

There would appear to be a variety of argument for and against the new legislation. Some suggest that raising the fines only places a more severe burden on low-income drivers, who can’t afford the existing fine, much less a higher fine. Others, such as those engaged in defending drivers accused of drinking and driving, could argue that this only gives police more incentive to stop motorists who otherwise are obeying the law; and, in doing so, would open the door for increased numbers of DWI arrests.

Norcross bill would boost fine for motorists who fail to keep right, NJ.com, June 25, 2011