SOMERVILLE, N.J. - Every day at least 9 people are killed on our roadways due to distracted driving. Additionally an estimated 421,000 are also injured every year. Distractive driving is a choice. It is, no doubt, a selfish choice that not only endangers the driver but imperils passengers and all others on our roadways. No one gets behind the wheel of a vehicle and picks up a cell phone with the intent to kill or injure someone. But by ignoring the inherent risk, discounting the warnings of the dangers and disregarding the law is just as bad.
In Somerset County, during the year 2013, there were 11,770 motor vehicle crashes reported to police. In 5,200 of those crashes, officers determined that driver inattention was a contributing factor in causation. In simple terms, nearly half of 2013’s crashes occurred because drivers were not paying attention. Compare that to the 238 crashes (2%) involving drunk drivers in 2013.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. As part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “U-Drive, U-Text, U-Pay” Campaign students, educators, safety advocates and law enforcement officers will step up efforts to try enlighten drivers as to the risks of distracted driving.
As part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month programs are being sponsored by the Somerset County Traffic Safety Alliance, Somerset County Prosecutors Office, Somerset County Association of Chiefs of Police, Traffic Officers Association of Central/West Jersey, Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, Somerset County Teens Don’t Drive Distracted Task Force and the N.J. Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
High schools throughout Somerset County will be participating in individual projects and programs. They will also be taking part in a countywide awareness initiative. Banners equipped with an anti-distracted driving pledge will be displayed in the schools, and students and staff members will be urged to commit to the pledge. In addition, schools will compete against one another in a “30 Day Challenge”. Produced by students at The Somerset Academy as part of a contest sponsored by the Brain Injury Alliance of N.J., the “30 Day Challenge” requires students to track their “anti-distractive compliance” while driving. Each day of compliance is tracked on a log sheet. Students who comply for the entire 30 day period are counted, and the student body of the school with the highest percentage of compliance wins the contest.
The Traffic Safety Alliance will continue to offer a Distracted Driving Awareness Workshop conducted throughout the year to any group, business or agency that requests a workshop. The presentation offers information demonstrating the behaviors that constitute distractive driving, the myriad of the tragedies caused, and the steps being implemented to address this very real problem. For more information please visit www.sctrafficsafety.com and send a message through the “Contact Us” page.
Law Enforcement authorities throughout Somerset County will be stepping up enforcement efforts. Utilizing grant monies from the N.J. Division of Highway Traffic Safety, police departments and the Sheriff’s Office will be dedicating extra patrols to detect distracted drivers
“When we rolled out the PUT IT DOWN initiative in 2011, our officers issued written warnings and offered offenders an opportunity to avoid prosecution if they took a defined step to educate themselves as to the perils of distracted driving. They’ll be no more written warnings beyond this simple message: our officers will be out there in force, and if you choose to violate the law, they will stop you and issue you a ticket.” advises Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano. “Tickets are, indeed, expense and they serve as a very effective deterrent. However, the risk of seriously injuring or killing yourself or someone else should serve as the real motivator for refraining from driving in a distracted fashion.”
If you are involved in a crash that causes serious injury or death and a cellular device is involved you can be charged with a crime that could result in you being sent to prison for up to 10 years and fined $150,000. “There are too many crashes, injuries and deaths. We must change how we drive”, said Chief William Parenti, “Enforcement activities will be zero tolerance”.
Each and every one of us can do our part by choosing smartly. Put the phone down, turn it off, it can wait until you can safely pull off the road or you arrive at your destination. By working together we can make our roads safer.
When you are driving…… Just drive.