April 16, 2014 at 7:00 PM
NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of people pulled over on Route 22 this month, you’re not alone. The North Plainfield Police have stepped up their enforcement of laws against driving while texting or using a cell phone as part of “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”
The department is making an extended effort on Thursday April 17 on Route 22 East near the new Costco. Police officers will be dressed as construction workers and surveyors on the side of the road looking for drivers with devices in their hands, and will radio ahead with vehicle descriptions and license plates to patrol cars down the road.
“If police see you with a phone in your hand,” said North Plainfield Police Chief William Parenti. “You will have a ticket in the other.”
To put the need to put the phone down in perspective, the US DOT notes that the average time a driver’s eyes come off the road to read a text is five seconds, which at 55 miles per hour – the speed limit on Route 22 – would be like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
In addition to risking accidents and potentially death, the ticket for distracted driving is, at the lowest amount, $130.
The sting had originally been planned for Tuesday, or tax day, but the heavy rain expected made it impossible to coordinate the effort and have an effective impact on the issue.
North Plainfield received a $5,000 federal grant to perform the increased enforcement campaign, working in conjunction with Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano’s “Put it Down” campaign.
In New Jersey it is illegal for any driver to hold a handheld device or text while operating a vehicle, and bus drivers and novice drivers are forbidden from even talking on cell phones. The undercover North Plainfield officers will report any violations of these statutes.
According to the US Department of Transportation more than 3,300 people died in accidents involving a distracted driver, and more than 400,000 people were injured.
The effort is particularly focused on young drivers. Ten percent of fatal accidents involving drivers under twenty are attributable to distracted driving. Twenty seven percent all fatal accidents involve a distracted driver under the age of 30.