The Division of Highway Traffic Safety has awarded $5,000 to 38 police departments for the initiative and many more agencies are expected to participate unfunded. The campaign runs through April 21. The crackdowns are similar in scope to the “Drive Sober, or Get Pulled Over” and “Click It or Ticket” mobilizations, which have targeted impaired driving and seat belt usage, respectively. The campaign is part of a nationwide effort, which was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and will coincide with nationally-observed Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
“The dangers of driver inattention are staggering, placing drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike in harm’s way,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman. “Distracted driving is an incredibly significant issue on our roads and one that requires a total commitment from law enforcement to eliminate. To continue to make our roads safer, we must be as aggressive with distracted drivers as we have been with drunk drivers and people who refused to wear seat belts.”
“Driving and texting is illegal and irresponsible. People who break our distracted driving laws will be stopped and fined,” said Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky. “For those who say that driving and texting is an epidemic, we believe enforcement of our state texting law is part of the cure.”
In addition to the enforcement component, public service announcements recorded by Attorney General Hoffman will be broadcast on New Jersey radio stations throughout April and will urge drivers to put down their phone and just drive.
The national “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” enforcement blitz will also be supported by a multi-million dollar national advertising campaign, designed to raise awareness about the enforcement effort and remind people about the deadly consequences of driving and texting.
Researchers have found that distracted driving is a major problem, especially for young drivers. According to the AAA Foundation, analysis of crash videos of teen drivers found significant evidence that distracted driving is likely much more widespread than previously known. The organization’s new findings, issued earlier this month, found that distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, which is four times as many as official estimates based on police reports.
Researchers analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders. The results showed that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of all crashes studied; including 89 percent of road-departure crashes and 76 percent of rear-end crashes. NTHSA previously has estimated that distraction is a factor in only 14 percent of all teen driver crashes.
It is illegal in New Jersey to operate a motor vehicle while using a handheld electronic device. Violating this law subjects motorists to fines of $200 to $400 for a first offense and could increase to $800 and three insurance points in subsequent violations.
In last year’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign, police issued 13,478 summonses for illegal phone use, 5,908 for speeding and 1,211 for DWI.
To see a list of agencies receiving funding for this initiative please visit: www.nj.gov/oag/hts/downloads/UDUTUP_2015_Grant_Recipients.pdf