"Careless Driving; N.J.S.A. 39:4-97"

Careless driving ticket N.J.S.A. 39:4-97 is perhaps the most common traffic violation heard in every New Jersey Municipal Court.

Police generally issue this ticket to a driver deemed at fault following a motor vehicle accident in New Brunswick, New Jersey, for example.


A person found guilty of this violation faces two motor vehicle and insurance points plus a fine.

Incarceration may be imposed up to 15 days for careless driving although courts rarely if ever exercise such discretion.

The Court is likelier to impose jail for this violation in the event of an accompanying DUI charge that was dismissed based on a technicality.

The court may also suspend a driver's license if it finds the violation to have been willful.

The period of suspension is left to the discretion of the Judge.

Again, courts rarely if ever exercise such extreme discretion following a careless driving charge.

State Must Prove:

To obtain a conviction the state must prove the following:

1. You were the driver - usually elicited by police or witness testimony in the identification phase of the trial;

2. you were driving a vehicle - vehicle is interpreted expansively to include bicycles although riding a bike on sidewalk is a defense;

3. on a highway;

4. careless or without caution;

5. in a manner endangering or likely to endanger;

6. person or property.

Strategy In Court

A good alternative plea is pleading guilty to obstructing traffic N.J.S.A 39:4-67.

If the prosecutor does not grant that request then unsafe driving N.J.S.A 39:4-97.2 should be considered, although it should be noted that unsafe driving carries an approximate fine of $400.

Additionally, four points are assessed on one's driving record for a third unsafe driving conviction within five years of a second unsafe driving conviction.

Finally, when the offense involves an accident with personal injury or property damage, NJ traffic lawyer will not enter into any plea agreement unless it is accompanied with a "civil reservation."

This way the plea cannot be used as evidence in any subsequent civil lawsuit.

If you have any questions about a careless driving violation, click here to contact a NJ Traffic Attorney.