FAIRFIELD, NJ — The Fairfield Township Police Department recently received a $5,000 enforcement grant from the Department of Highway Traffic Safety, which is being used toward a Distracted Driving Enforcement and Education campaign. Extra officers are on patrol looking for drivers who are texting or talking on their cell phones.

Fairfield Mayor James Gasparini also announced at the Fairfield mayor and council meeting on Monday that that the Fairfield Police Department has a newly created Special Enforcement Unit.

According to Gasparini, the unit will focus mainly on conducting traffic enforcement at various locations within the community that have been the subject of complaints, where violations regularly occur or at locations that are dangerous.

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He encouraged citizens to contact Sgt. Paul Bowden at 973-227-1400 to report any traffic-enforcement-related issues that the Special Enforcement Unit should be aware of.

The unit also will focus attention on drug-interdiction efforts and assist the Investigative Division with targeted criminal enforcement activities. The unit will be under the supervision of Sgt. Bowden. Officers David Chabay, Christopher Nicholas and Brian Holzmann are also on the Special Enforcement Unit.

On the Fairfield Township Police Department’s website, Police Chief Anthony Manna states,Law enforcement officers from the Fairfield Police Department will be cracking down on distracted drivers during April as part of New Jersey’s UDrive. UText. UPay. enforcement campaign,” Police Chief Anthony Manna said on the Fairfield Township Police Department’s website. “Beginning April 1 and running through April 21, the high-visibility law-enforcement initiative will target motorists who engage in dangerous distracted driving behaviors such as talking on hand-held cell phones and sending text messages while driving.”

“Distracted driving is a serious issue on our roadways,” said Gary Poedubicky, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports, “In 2014 alone, 3,179 people were killed in distracted driving crashes and an estimated 431,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.” 

The police department’s website also states, “Despite the fact that using a hand held cell phone or texting while driving is illegal in New Jersey, the practice appears to be widespread.

In a recent survey conducted by the Fairleigh Dickenson University Public Mind Poll for the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, 67 percent of respondents said they “very often” see people driving and talking on a hand held cell phone, and 42 percent of respondents said they “very often” see drivers texting.

The campaign is being carried out during the month of April, which the National Safety Council has designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. 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.

On a related topic, Councilman John LaForgia read a proclamation declaring Fairfield Township’s support for the nationwide Distracted Driving 2017 Crackdown.

“Distracted driving is a serious, life-threatening practice that is preventable,” said LaForgia.

He added that distracting driving can result in injuries and deaths to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists when drivers divert their attention away from driving and focus on another activity.

According to LaForgia, data shows that, in 2014, distracted-driving-related crashes resulted in 3,179 deaths and 431,000 injuries on the nation’s roads. In New Jersey, distracted driving was listed as a contributing circumstance in more than 800,000 crashes from 2010 to 2014.

LaForgia said that it is a fact that a reduction in distracted driving in New Jersey will ultimately save lives.