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Statewide crackdown on distracted driving starts this weekend

According to a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind survey, 67 percent of respondents indicated that they see their fellow motorists talking on a handheld cell phone "very often," while 42 percent of respondents indicated that they see their fellow motorists texting "very often."

While the frequency with which people are driving distracted here in New Jersey and across the U.S. is undoubtedly irritating to those of us who choose to drive safely, it's important to understand that this behavior is more than just an annoyance, it's a threat to public safety.

If you have a hard time believing it, consider that statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that an astounding 431,000 people were injured and another 3,179 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers in 2015 alone.

In an attempt to help combat this dangerous phenomenon, law enforcement agencies across the Garden State will once again be taking part in the annual "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." campaign, which runs from Saturday, April 1 through Friday, April 21.

For those unfamiliar with this safety initiative, it is conducted in conjunction with National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and essentially means that local police departments, sheriff's offices and the state police will be out in full force looking to catch drivers who violate the state's rather stringent laws covering this dangerous behind the wheel behavior.

Over 6,600 summonses were issued during last year's campaign.

In addition to prohibiting drivers from taking on handheld phones while driving, state law also bans texting while driving. Those caught violating these laws will face the following consequences:

  • First offense: A fine of $200-$400
  • Second offense: A fine of $400-$600
  • Third offense: A fine of $600-$800, three license points and a license suspension of up to 90 days   

Here's hoping the campaign proves effective not just in terms of citations issued, but in changing the behavior of motorists …

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options.

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