LIVINGSTON, NJ — More than 170 motor vehicle stops and counting have been conducted during the Livingston Police Department’s participation in the distracted driving campaign, “UDrive. UText. UPay.” The department’s efforts began on April 1 and will continue through April 21.

Chief of Police Craig Handschuch and Sgt. Joseph Fosko announced on Monday that 173 stops have already been made in the Township of Livingston during this high-visibility law enforcement initiative, which targets motorists who engage in dangerous distracted driving behaviors such as talking on handheld cell phones and sending text messages while driving.

According to Fosko, driver inattention was listed as a contributing circumstance in 52 percent of the state’s crashes in 2015, and was also listed as a contributing factor in crashes at a rate nine times higher than that of the next-highest contributing factor (speed). The campaign is being carried out during the month of April, which the National Safety Council has designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

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“[Distracted Driving Awareness Month] is a time to remind New Jersey motorists of the state’s distracted driving laws, which include a ban on handheld cell phone use and text messaging by all drivers and a ban on all cell phone use, handheld or hands-free, by novice drivers,” said Fosko.

He also said that the United State Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is once again mobilizing law enforcement officers nation wide with their fifth annual ‘UDrive. UText. UPay.’ grant campaign.

“NHTSA provides federal funding for this grant, and with the assistance and partnership of those here tonight, including the chief, the town manager, the council, the mayor, our clerk’s office and our finance department, we applied for a grant here in Livingston that’s moderated by the NJ Highway Traffic Safety and we were awarded the grant,” said Fosko. “The federally funded grant project consists on an enforcement crackdown from April 1 through April 21.”

The New Jersey campaign is modeled after similar successful high visibility enforcement programs such as "Click It or Ticket" and "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over." It is designed to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted and to offer deterrence through visible enforcement and to issue summonses for relevant motor vehicle violations.

Fosko said that in addition to texting and use of a cell phone to make calls while driving, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, watching a video and adjusting the radio is also dangerous and distracting. However, because using a handheld cell phone while driving to make calls or send text messages requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, Fosko said that they are "by far the most alarming distractions." 

“We’re conducting here in Livingston special enforcement patrols, which are targeting distracted drivers," he said. "To date, Livingston police officers dedicated to this grant have made 173 motor vehicle stops as of April 15. Please just put the phone down and drive.”

During Monday's township council meeting, Mayor Ed Meinhardt thanked Fosko for his powerful words, and presented the police department with a proclamation declaring the township’s support of the 2018 distracted driving crackdown both locally and nationally and pledging to help increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

“Distracted driving is possibly the most serious safety issue on our roadways today,” said Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed in distracted driving crashes and an estimated 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.” 

Police departments throughout New Jersey are increasing their efforts for the entire month of April. While the main focus of the National Campaign is on texting and driving, the efforts will focus on any form of distracted and aggressive driving.

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