LIVINGSTON, NJ — Throughout the month of April, law enforcement officers from the Livingston Police Department (LPD) will be cracking down on distracted drivers as part of New Jersey’s “UDrive. UText. UPay.” enforcement and awareness campaign.

This high-visibility law enforcement initiative targets motorists who engage in dangerous distracted driving behaviors such as talking on hand-held cell phones and sending text messages while driving.

According LPD Officer Joseph Fosko, a member of the LPD Traffic Bureau who is coordinating the Livingston campaign, a total of 2,369 state-reportable crashes have occurred within the township over the last five years from 2016 to 2020, which equates to an average of 474 crashes per year

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“Livingston ranks 72nd when comparing total crashes occurring within the top 150 reporting state agencies,” said Fosko. “We all need to do our part to drive these numbers down and promote community awareness of the importance of putting the phone down and focusing on the task of safe driving.”

In 2018 alone, 2,841 people were killed in distracted driving crashes across the country, and an estimated 400,000 people were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In New Jersey that year, driver inattention was listed as a contributing circumstance in 50% of crashes, which is seven times higher than the next-highest contributing factor of speed.

New Jersey is one of eight states nationally to receive dedicated federal funds this year to tackle the issue of driver distraction. This federal funding will be used for police overtime enforcement grants at the local level as well as a statewide multimedia public awareness campaign on this important issue.

“The Livingston Police Department applied for and was awarded these grant funds,” said Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz. “The objective of this highly visible, targeted-enforcement campaign is to change the behavior of—and deter others from—driving while distracted. The ultimate goal of this campaign is to reduce the total number of crashes occurring within the township.”

According to Marshuetz, Livingston officers have been instructed to conduct suppression patrols within the township with emphasis on pedestrian zones, known bicycle travel areas, school zones and major intersections.

“Distracted driving” refers to any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on a cell phone, eating and drinking, engaging with passengers, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system or any other activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of safe driving.

The LPD specifically referred to texting is being “the most alarming distraction. When driving at 55 miles per hour, the five seconds it takes to send or read a text is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with eyes closed.

The police department also mentioned studies showing that distraction-related crashes are under-reported and that traffic tickets have been proven to significantly reduce the occurrence of accidents and non-fatal injuries.

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