TRENTON, NJ – As distracted driving continues to claim more lives on New Jersey roadways than any other risky driving behavior, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Highway Traffic Safety (“HTS”) announced the launch of a statewide public awareness campaign aimed at providing motorists with good reasons to give the road their undivided attention.
The “Take Control Of Your Destiny” campaign – and its slogan “You Have Places to Go. Don’t Drive Distracted.” The campaign launch coincides with the kickoff of April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness month to raise awareness of the dangers of risky behind-the-wheel behaviors like texting, chatting on hand held cell phones, eating, and applying make-up.
“Driver inattention is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New Jersey, and we’re working to change that behavior through a public awareness campaign that uses the power of positive messaging,” said Grewal. “We’re reminding people what’s at stake every time they get behind the wheel. We want drivers of all ages to realize that their plans and dreams for the future depend on making safe choices here and now.”
According to New Jersey State Police statistics, distracted driving was to blame for more than a quarter of the fatal crashes that occurred in New Jersey from 2015 through 2019, claiming the lives of 730 drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. During that same five-year period, more than half of all crashes in the state– both fatal and non-fatal – involved a distracted driver.
While distracted driving crashes declined for the third straight year in 2019, they still outpaced those caused by any other risky behaviors, including speeding or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“The real tragedy of distracting driving fatalities is that they are so easily preventable. All it takes is for drivers to keep their minds on their driving and their hands on the wheel,” said Eric Heitmann, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “Our campaign encourages drivers to put down the phone and focus on the important matter of what lies ahead – literally and figuratively. In doing so, they will be taking control of their own destinies and protecting those of all others on the road.”
HTS also kicked off New Jersey’s participation in the annual “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign, a national distracted driving enforcement effort sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Law enforcement agencies throughout the state will join agencies across the country in a three-week high-visibility enforcement campaign until April 30 targeting drivers who are texting, talking on hand-held cell phones, or engaging in similarly risky behaviors that distract their attention from the road.
New Jersey is one of only eight states nationwide to qualify for and receive grant funding from NHTSA to combat distracted driving.
The funding New Jersey received for fiscal year 2021 has allowed the Division to award more than $1.2 million in overtime enforcement grants to 183 law enforcement agencies statewide for this month’s campaign. The money helps agencies pay for additional officers on the road, distracted driving checkpoints, and other enforcement initiatives during the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign.