Distracted driving remains a serious problem in New Jersey

TRENTON – Kicking off National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Highway Safety (HTS) today announced the results of a 2021 study that found at any one time, one in five drivers on some high-impact New Jersey crash lanes were driving distracted. The study, commissioned by HTS and conducted by Rowan University, also provided insight into distracted driver behavior and identified key contributing factors.

Also in observance of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, HTS today launched an updated version of its successful 2021 distracted driving awareness campaign “Take Control of Your Destiny” and launched ” U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign, a month-long statewide law enforcement campaign targeting distracted driving.

“Distracted driving kills people – it’s as simple as that. And those deaths are entirely preventable,” Acting Attorney General Platkin said. “As part of the Murphy administration’s focus on the safety of all New Jerseyans, we are stepping up education and enforcement efforts statewide and calling on drivers to do their part and remain alert and focused at all times behind the wheel.”

Distracted driving has long been a leading cause of accidents in New Jersey. Data shows driver inattention accounted for more than half of all recorded crashes in the state from 2011 to 2020, and nearly a third of fatal crashes during that time – surpassing speeding and drinking and driving as a contributing factor to road deaths.

“Distracted driving continues to be a serious problem in New Jersey,” said NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “Drivers are responsible for their actions while driving a vehicle. Please put the phone down and eliminate other driving distractions so the focus can be on safe driving.


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To better understand and address the problem of distracted driving, HTS – through Rowan University’s Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATES) – commissioned a study to go beyond accident statistics to provide a broader picture of the problem of distracted driving. in New Jersey.

The study focused on six New Jersey corridors with high numbers of distracted driving crashes: US1, US9, US130, I-80, US22, and Garden State Parkway, as well as four other arterial roads and major interstates in the state: I-295, I-95, NJ18 and NJ55.

During the spring and summer of 2021, researchers traveled nearly 15,000 miles on the 10 routes in a vehicle equipped with cameras on both sides to observe, record and document distracted driving in real time.

The researchers specifically looked for visual distractions (for example, drivers taking their eyes off the road while texting or talking to passengers); manual distractions (eg, drivers taking their hands off the wheel while texting, receiving calls, adjusting the radio, reaching for an object, or eating/drinking); and cognitive distractions (for example, drivers no longer think about driving when texting or receiving calls).

Key findings from the study include:

At any given time, more than 20% of motorists on the selected roadways were driving distracted.

Driver distraction was higher on weekdays than on weekends.
Handheld cellphones were the leading type of distraction on both weekends and weekdays.

Receiving calls, texting, eating/drinking, and grooming were higher on weekdays than on weekends.

Talking to passengers was higher on weekends than on weekdays.
Roads with traffic signals experienced more distractions from “grooming and eating/drinking” than roads without traffic signals, while the latter had a greater proportion of “talking to passengers” events.

The overall rate of distractions was greater during the “peak hours” of 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

An increase in speed limit significantly increased distracted driving, while an increase in the number of lanes significantly
decreased it.

“While the overall findings of the Rowan study paint a grim picture, the insights gained from the study provide us with important insights that will be used to develop strategies to address and mitigate distracted driving through the application of law and education,” said Eric Heitmann, director of the Highway Safety Division. “Tackling driver inattention is a top priority for HTS, especially during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, when we join states across the country in raising awareness of this issue and cracking down on violators.”

The launch of the “Destiny 2.0” public awareness campaign today builds on the success of the original Destiny campaign which featured brightly decorated steering wheels to remind drivers what is especially important to them and what is in play every time they get behind the wheel. The high-profile campaign, launched in April 2021, generated over 70,000 impressions. “Destiny 2.0” features updated images to hammer home the message that staying focused on the road today helps drivers get where they’re going in the future. The new ads will appear in public spaces across the state, as well as on the internet and on radio. For more information on the “Destiny 2.0” campaign, visit njsaferoads.com/destiny.

The annual “U Drive. U Text. You pay. » campaign against distracted driving. During the campaign, which runs through April 30, police departments across the state are joining law enforcement nationwide in a targeted crackdown on drivers who text, talk on mobile phone or engage in similar driving that distracts their attention from the road.

It is illegal in New Jersey to drive a motor vehicle while using a handheld electronic device. Violation of this law exposes motorists to fines of $200 to $400 for a first offense and could increase to $800 with the addition of three insurance points on subsequent offenses.

To help with “U Drive. U Text. You pay. » law enforcement efforts, HTS provided 202 law enforcement agencies statewide with grants totaling $1,600,800 that pay for saturation patrols during the month-long campaign.

Last year, the “U Drive. U Text. You pay. The campaign resulted in 8,014 citations for cell phone use/texting and 4,346 for reckless driving. In addition, participating police departments issued 6,151 speeding tickets and 2,944 seat belt violation tickets.

For more information, follow the New Jersey Highway Safety Division on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and visit NJSafeRoads.com.

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