Cops across N.J. to start month-long crackdown on texting while driving

Distracted driving played a part in nearly half of all crashes in New Jersey in 2019

By Jeff Goldman

TRENTON, N.J. — Law enforcement agencies across New Jersey will on Friday start a month-long crackdown on distracted driving.

The UText. UDrive. UPay campaign begins statewide as police in both marked and unmarked vehicles look for drivers who are texting or talking on hand-held phones, according to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.

Drivers caught texting or with a cell phone in their hands face a $200 to $400 penalty for a first offense that could increase to $800 with the three insurance points for additional violations.

Distracted driving — which also includes eating, grooming and adjusting a radio — played a part in nearly half of all crashes in New Jersey in 2019, the most recent year with data available.

“Distracted driving kills people – it is that simple. And these deaths are entirely preventable,” Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said in a statement. “As part of the (Phil) Murphy Administration’s focus on the safety of all New Jerseyans, we are stepping up education and enforcement efforts throughout the state and calling on drivers to do their part and remain alert and focused at all times behind the wheel.”

Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction, federal officials aid.

A study Highway Traffic Safety study conducted in the spring and summer of 2021 on 10 major roads in the Garden State showed that one in five drivers were operating their vehicle while distracted. Researchers traveled nearly 15,000 miles in a vehicle mounted with cameras on to observe, record, and document distracted driving, state officials said.

At least 3,142 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving distracted drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. That’s about 8% of all fatal crashes.

More than 29,000 have died nationwide since 2012 in distracted-driving crashes, the federal agency said.

New Jersey is one of eight states to receive federal funds to pay cops overtime for enforcement.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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