Police in New Jersey and New York are cracking down on distracted drivers – making a greater effort to identify and ticket drivers who ignore laws against the use of handheld phones behind the wheel.
An estimated that 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 injured in auto accidents involving distracted drivers in 2012. With a growing number of people owning smart phones, it isn’t clear whether stricter laws will have the intended outcome.But officials are hoping the stepped-up enforcement this month will make a dent in the rate of people texting and talking behind the wheel.
The enforcement efforts come as safety advocates nationwide observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April.
Both New Jersey and New York ban the use of handheld devices by drivers for talking or texting. Additionally, New Jersey prohibits both hand-held and hands-free devices for novice drivers and bus drivers. The state of New York has not adopted these restrictions.
Many people consider texting to be the most dangerously distracting activity for drivers. According to the National Safety Council, texting while driving raises the chances of an accident by eight to 23 times.
But the National Safety Council also says that talking on a cellphone raises the risk of an accident by four times. What’s more, the organization says,hands-free devices provide no safety benefit. It is the conversation, not the technology, that distracts drivers, the National Safety Council says.
As reported by the North Jersey Record, the state is providing federal funds to police agencies in 60 communities for the push against distracted drivers. More officers will work overtime in the type of enforcement effort that in the past has been reserved for drunk driving and safety belt patrols.
The federal government is encouraging states to do more to end distracted driving, explained Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Safety.
In 2012, Paterson County had 85 cellphone-related crashes – the most in the state. North Bergen had 29.
Across New Jersey, distractions contribute to 30 percent of all fatal auto accidents, the newspaper reported, more than the 25 percent across the nation.
As a driver, you can personally help reduce the risk of serious accidents this month and beyond. Start by putting down your cellphone while behind the wheel. No phone call or text is worth your life.