NEW JERSEY – Starting today, New Jersey police officers will join law enforcement across the country in a three-week enforcement campaign targeting distracted drivers who text, talk on a cell phone, or engage in similarly dangerous behaviors behind the wheel, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety announced.
The “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign, which runs through April 21, is aimed at saving lives and making New Jersey roadways safer.
“Driver inattention is a leading cause of crashes in our state. Those who talk or text behind the wheel are a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “Public safety demands that we crack down on these individuals as aggressively as we do those who drive without seatbelts or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
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 with the addition of three insurance points in subsequent violations.
"Distracted driving is one of the most critical traffic safety issues that we face today,” said Eric Heitmann, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “As with many improper driving behaviors, distracted driving is a choice that drivers make. The ‘U Drive. U Text. U Pay.’ campaign raises driver awareness of the choices they make and encourages better driving behaviors that make our roadways safer.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) reports that in 2017 alone, 3,166 people were killed in distracted driving crashes and, in New Jersey, an estimated 47,021 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
In New Jersey, in 2017 driver inattention was listed as a contributing circumstance in 51 percent of the state’s crashes. Driver inattention was listed as a contributing factor in crashes at a rate nine times higher than that of the next highest contributing factor, which was speed.
The “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign was developed by the NHTSA to help mobilize law enforcement across the country during April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Now in its 6th year, the campaign is modeled after similar successful high visibility NHTSA enforcement programs such as “Click It or Ticket” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”
Last year, 368 of New Jersey’s 496 police departments, including the New Jersey State Police, took part “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” Campaign. , a participation rate of 74%.
It is estimated that more than 20,000 enforcement employment hours were worked during the campaign, which included 74 fixed distracted driving checkpoints.
The campaign focused on distracted driving, but as with all statewide traffic safety initiatives, motorists were reminded of the life-saving benefits of proper restraint usage and obeying posted speed limits.
Statewide, the crackdown resulted in 13,146 citations for cell phone use/texting and 5,697 for careless driving. In addition, participating police agencies issued 6,538 speeding citations and 5,712 citations for seat belt violations.
“Distracted driving is a threat to public safety. Actions such as talking on a cell phone without a hands free device and texting while driving substantially increase ones probability of being involved in a crash.” Said Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “In the interest of public safety, the State Police will continue to conduct motor vehicle stops of drivers engaged in this activity because enforcement of the traffic laws saves lives.”
New Jersey is one of only four states nationally (along with Maine, Connecticut, and Oregon) to qualify for and receive an NHTSA grant funding to combat distracted driving.
The $2.4 million in grant funding New Jersey received for fiscal year 2019 has allowed the Division to award more than $1 million in overtime enforcement grants to 207 police agencies in the state. The money helps agencies pay for additional officers on the road, distracted driving check points, and other enforcement initiatives during the “UText. U Drive. U Pay.” campaign.
All New Jersey police departments are invited to take part in the campaign,
whether they received grant funding or not.
The NHTSA grant also funds statewide distracted driving public awareness initiatives that include public service announcements broadcast on New Jersey radio stations throughout the month of April, social media messaging, and distribution of educational materials.
For more information, follow the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and visit NJSafeRoads.com.