NJ Woman Seeks Harsher Law For Phone Use While Driving

ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBS 2) – It’s already against the law to drive and talk on a handheld phone in New Jersey, but a proposed law would make the penalties much harsher.

CBS 2’s Christine Sloan spoke to the daughter of a woman whose tragic death inspired the proposed change.

Helen Kulesh’s name is on a sign that sits on an Elizabeth street corner, with flowers wrapped around the pole. The makeshift memorial marks the site where 89-year-old Kulesh was killed five years ago, struck down, her daughter said, by a distracted driver on a cell phone.

“In the crosswalk, she had the light in her favor, and she was more than halfway across the street,” daughter Joyce Vence said.

Vence said the loss of her mother – who she said was her best friend – has been overwhelming.

“It’s just not easy. You can have a bad day and a good moment, or you could have just one moment of memory,” Vence said.

Vence is trying to turn the tragedy into something positive. If a New Jersey bill named after her mother and another couple becomes law, a driver who injures or kills someone while talking on a cell phone could face vehicular homicide charges, just like a drunk driver would.

“You can’t bring your loved one back, but an offender cannot just kill someone with no penalty,” Vence said. “It’s not fair.”

Vence said the driver who killed her mother spent a day in jail after pleading guilty to careless driving and failing to yield to a pedestrian.

Vence said the driver made a left turn onto Grove Street and was actually driving into the wrong lane when she struck Kulesh.

Tougher laws, Vence said, will hopefully make drivers think twice.

“You are behind the wheel of a 3,000-pound or so vehicle,” she said. “Keep your eyes focused on the road. The call can wait.”

Vence has her mother’s picture in the front window of her home, along with a message for drivers: “On the cell phone? Don’t be a distracted driver! Brake for pedestrians!”

It’s her mission, she said, to make sure what happened to her mother doesn’t happen to someone else. The bill, named the “Kulesh and Kuberts Law,” has been sitting in an Assembly committee since June, but it will now be heard in March.

More from Christine Sloan
  • SAR
  • DanTe

    Don’t know. But I know you do.


    And to the woman who lost her mother. I pray you and your family find some victory because we have so many walks of life among us and none act like they were born from mothers these days. I feel your grief and pray for you. GOD BLESS


    Maybe if the drivers on this debate were’nt in traffic right now sending dumb comments we can get the real issue at hand resolved. Personally if i catch a driver on the phone in traffic I make so much noise with my horn and pray a cop comes. Or i write the plate # down and file a complaint later in the city of Elizabeth New Jersey most cant walk and chew bubble gum. Why drive and talk on a HANDHELD??? welfare has free phones get a blue tooth out of pocket JERKS!!! And better yet learn… right turn on red ain’t an automatic thing, its when no right away vehicles are coming not dodge a wreck game!

  • captbillsgirl

    let’s make the penalties hurt. first offense, loss of license for 3 months and $5,000 fine. 2nd offense 3 months jail, loss of license for 6 months and $10K fine. if you still haven’t gotten the message, 3rd offense 1 year jail revoking of license for 5 years, probation, community service in a rehab hospital and $10K fine. oh yeah paying all medical expenses for the victims of your selfishness/foolishness. mandatory minimum sentences. justice for the immediate and extended victims

  • ajapierce

    Penalities and jail time aren’t going to fix the problem.

    We need to step forward with technology and have cars drive themselves. This would elinimate lots of problems that lead to car accidents and people being hit by a car for these reasons:

    Cell phone, talking or texting, drunk behind the whell, prescription drug abuse, being tired and driving behind the wheel.

    With cars that could drive themselves these are things that would be greatly avoided.

  • kjnk

    I don’t think the law is even inforced. I’d like to see the statistics on how many drivers are given a ticket!

  • RichieT

    me sucker, You should be banned from the internet for making comments like that. If a person in your family, or a friend was seriously injured or killed by a person
    using a cell phone while driving, you’d have a totally different attitude. You’d be screaming at a person that makes the same kind of comment.

  • Nick

    Death penalty for drunken and distracted driving would be nice. But you won’t have any politicians voting for it. They’re all drunken louts with no attention span. They will not vote for any laws that will effect them.

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