PUBLIC SAFETY: Police throughout New Jersey have begun a three-week distracted-driver crackdown on those talking and/or texting behind the wheel.
Already motorists have reported seeing local and Bergen County Police officers on the roadways pulling over vehicles.
Using $300,000 in grant money from the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, they’ve increased patrols and checkpoints as part of “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”
The campaign runs through April 21.
“Talking on the phone or texting while driving is one of the most dangerous bad habits you can have,” state Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky said. “When a driver is distracted, the 3,000-pound vehicle they’re supposed to be operating is not being properly controlled.
“So many of the tragedies we see began with a text or phone call.”
How the campaign works:
An undercover spotter on the roadside identifies violators and communicates via radio to marked units with uniformed officers located a short distance down the road. Those units will direct those cars into a parking lot, where they will be issued summonses for using a handheld electronic device while driving.
The increased enforcements measures come as distracted driving has become one of the most dangerous driver habits.
Polling by Fairleigh-Dickinson University reported that 91% of New Jerseyans said they have seen other drivers talking on a cell phone while driving either “very often” or “sometimes,” while 71% percent had seen other drivers texting while driving either “very often” or “sometimes.”
They apparently didn’t disclose percentages on their own habits.
“It’s clear that many drivers have a casual attitude towards driving distracted and think they’ve got the requisite skills to text and be safe behind the wheel,” Poedubicky said. “Those drivers need to get the message that they can’t safely and effectively drive while updating Twitter or calling a friend.
“Historically, the best way to get that point across with a high-visibility enforcement campaign like this one.”
Under the current law, violators face a $100 fine plus court costs and fees.
HOWEVER: On July 1, the penalties rise to $200-$400 for a first offense and up to $800 for subsequent violations.
The current campaign is part of a nationwide effort, which was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and will coincide with nationally-recognized Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Sixty police departments have received $5,000 each, while many more are expected to participate unfunded.
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