Driving to New Jersey: Tips, Tricks, and Laws

Set your drive to New Jersey up for success by planning the best route, avoiding traffic, and familiarizing yourself with the state’s laws.
Written by Sophie Boka
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
New Jersey
is notorious for some of the worst driving conditions in the nation, yet its roads are still frequented by commuters and road-trippers alike. 
Cards on the table: driving in Jersey is rough. But, truly, its roads aren’t all that bad. They lead to some pretty beautiful destinations you won’t want to miss out on. And with the right planning, you won’t have to.
is here with the tips and tricks for driving in New Jersey. Here's the lowdown on New Jersey driving laws, road conditions, and even some sweet ideas for your next road trip. 
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The best routes for driving to New Jersey

Jersey may get mixed reviews, but it’s home to some of the best getaways in the nation: urban cultural centers, beaches, nature preserves, and more. Here are just a few of the many popular routes:
  • New York City—Delaware Water Gap (1.5 hours): Is the NYC grind getting to you? Hop in the car for a short 1.5-hour drive for the ultimate recharge: 70,000 acres of lush mountains, waterfalls, beaches, and more await.
  • Chicago—Cape May (13 hours): The Windy City sure can get cold. Take a road trip to Cape May for a more preferable chill. This beautiful coastal community is home to golden beaches, prismatic sunsets, and great historical architecture. 
  • Washington, D.C.—Newark (4 hours): Admire the stained glass windows at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, tour the collections at the Newark Museum of Art, and walk amongst the cherry blossom trees at Branch Brook Park.
  • Boston—Princeton (5 hours): Going on a college tour? Those Ivy League campuses sure are pretty. Why not see a few in one go? Turn your visits into a fun five-hour road trip, driving between Boston and Princeton.

How good are New Jersey’s roads?

Well, let’s look at the data. The Reason Foundation’s
Annual Highway Report
ranked Jersey’s highway system 50th in the nation, falling at the bottom of eight of the report’s 13 metrics. That’s not a report to phone home about. 
But before you write Jersey’s roads off completely, let’s take a closer look at what their conditions are like. You’ll probably find the roads much more manageable than the hype makes them seem.

Does New Jersey have toll roads?

Yep! Like many states, Jersey’s major roads do have tolls. There are over 30 tolls in the New Jersey area. Best to plug your destination into your map app to see if there’s one on your route. 
If you’re willing to take back roads, tolls can sometimes be avoided. But they usually can’t be avoided altogether. Tolls are priced differently, costing you between $1 and $16. You can check out the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s
toll calculator
for a specific quote. 
If you’ll be local for a bit, it’s a smart move to
sign up for E-Z Pass
, which you can use to pay at any toll booth.

How bad is New Jersey traffic?

It’s bad. You already know. How bad is bad? Reason’s report found that Jersey drivers
lose about 86 hours
to traffic every year. Compare that to drivers in
, who lose only 1.75 hours to traffic. 
Alright, so it’s bad pretty much anywhere you go. But which routes rank the worst?
  • Route 17 between Rochelle Park and Paramus
  • I-295 in Camden County
  • I-80/95 near the George Washington Bridge
  • I-495 near the Lincoln Tunnel
  • NJ-21 and I-280 near Newark
If your map directs you through Jersey, you can skip the worst of the traffic by avoiding driving during rush hour. Weekend drives are smoothest. Though beware of Sunday evening drives when weekenders tend to head back to the city. If you drive during the week, traffic is at its lightest before 6 a.m. and after 7 p.m.
Key Takeaway New Jersey’s traffic is the worst. Period. But you can probably avoid some of it by taking back roads or driving at strategic times.
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What are New Jersey’s speeding laws?

New Jersey law
dictates the top speed limits for all roadways—streets, highways, freeways, you name it. Unless otherwise noted, here’s a list of what you can expect to encounter and where:
  • 25 mph: school zones, businesses, or residential areas
  • 35 mph: some low-density business areas and residential districts
  • 50 mph: most roadways
  • 55 mph: some state highways (as posted) and all interstates
  • 65 mph: some state highways (as posted)

Fines for speeding in New Jersey

Jersey’s speeding fines are determined by a graduated pricing system. Generally, a speeding fine will cost you somewhere between $85 and $260, depending on how far over the speed limit you’re driving. Here’s how much you’re charged if you drive over the speed limit by:
  • 1-9 mph: $85
  • 10-14 mph:$95
  • 15-19 mph: $105
  • 20-24 mph: $200
  • 25-29 mph: $220
  • 30-34 mph: $240
  • 35-39 mph: $260
If you’re going 10 mph or more over a speed limit of 65+, your fine will be doubled.
And don’t forget, a fine isn’t the only thing you’ll get for speeding. You’ll also have points added to your driving record, which will lead to a bump in your monthly car insurance bill. If you want to keep that rate as low as possible, make sure to use a comparison shopping tool to see which company will ofer you the lowest rate.

What are New Jersey’s alcohol laws?

New Jersey’s alcohol laws
are pretty standard. You can’t drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level at or above 0.08% (for adults), 0.04% (for commercial drivers), or 0.01% (if you’re under 21).
We know, we know. You’ve heard it a million times: don’t drink and drive. But one drink can truly impair your ability to drive. So play it safe and get a ride home. 
If that doesn’t convince you to play it safe, note that even if your BAC is under the set levels, New Jersey state authorities can still get you for a DWI charge. Their determination is up to the officer’s evaluation of the overall situation.
Alright, so you won’t drink and drive. But what about carrying alcohol in the car? In New Jersey, it’s
illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol
. However, so long as your alcohol maintains its original seal, you are free to transport it in your trunk.
Drinking and driving can have some pretty serious consequences from fines to jail time.
especially are nothing to joke about. So when driving through New Jersey, stay safe and go alcohol-free.

Can you use headphones while driving in New Jersey?

Some states outlaw headphone use while driving. Not New Jersey. Believe it or not, it’s legal to drive with headphones in the Garden State
However! If you are wearing headphones and get into an accident, you can still be cited for
reckless driving

What are some of New Jersey’s best road trips?

Alright! Now that we’ve got the logistics out of the way, on to the fun stuff. You’re planning on hitting the road and driving through Jersey soon. But where will you stop? New Jersey has endless sites to see and places to go. 
If you like food (everyone), check out our article about the
best foodie road trips in NJ
. You won’t be disappointed. From fresh farm-to-table dishes to Soprano-style Italian classics, you’re bound to find a Jersey restaurant that suits your pallet. 

How to find affordable car insurance in New Jersey

Given Jersey’s road reputation, it’s all the more important to protect yourself with top-rated car insurance. If you’re into saving time and money, the
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According to Allstate’s Annual Safest Driving Cities list, Paterson and Newark are some of the safest Jersey cities for driving. Generally, the least populous areas have the easiest driving. And the closer you get to New York City, the worse it gets.
It depends on the traffic. But if you’re driving from top to bottom, your drive should take about four hours.
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