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April 04, 2023

South Jersey police departments to crack down on distracted drivers in month-long ticket blitz

'U Drive. U Text. U Pay.' runs through April 30; inattentive motorists account for nearly half of all crashes in N.J.

Transportation Drivers
Distracted Driving Alexandre Boucher/Unsplash

Nearly 50 South Jersey police departments have received state funding to participate in the state's month-long distracting driving awareness campaign. The ticketing blitz runs through April 30.

More than 40 police departments across South Jersey are taking part in a statewide crackdown on distracted driving throughout April, issuing tickets to inattentive motorists in New Jersey roadways and ensuring people keep their eyes on the road.

The ticketing blitz, called "U. Drive. U Text. U Pay," began on Saturday and runs through Sunday, April 30 in observance of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. New Jersey's law enforcement agencies are joining national partners in a targeted sweep of unsafe driving, particularly talking or texting while behind the wheel.

The campaign, which has been running since 2019, highlights critical safety issues on roadways and reminds drivers to respect state driving laws. It's illegal to use handheld electronic devices while driving in New Jersey, and violations of the law can result in $200-$400 fines for a first offense, with fines reaching up to $800 for subsequent violations. Repeat violations of New Jersey's traffic safety laws can also result in the addition of three insurance points, according to the Attorney General's Office. 

Last year, the distracted driving crackdown yielded more than 8,000 citations across New Jersey for cell phone use or texting, and nearly 4,000 for careless driving. Drivers can also receive tickets for eating or drinking, watching videos, reading or adjusting the radio, according to the Department of Law & Public Safety

"Public safety is my number one priority, and that includes safe passage on New Jersey roadways," said Attorney General Matthew Platkin. "Our efforts to reduce distracted driving go hand in hand with the Murphy Administration's focus on the safety and security of all New Jerseyans. Distracted driving kills — it is that simple." 

Distracted driving is a leading cause of crashes in New Jersey, accounting for 49% of all crashes statewide from 2017 to 2021, according to data from the Attorney General's Office. There were 915 traffic fatalities during that period. Nearly 23% of crashes involving a distracted driver resulted in one or more injuries. 

Nationwide, 3,166 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2017. A Rowan University study released last year found that, at any given time, more than 20% of drivers on some New Jersey roads were distracted. The biggest distraction continues to be cell phones, NJ Spotlight News reported. 

"There is no excuse for texting while driving; you are risking your life and the lives of others," said NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. "Each driver has a responsibility to all users of the road system to drive safely, and we will continue to do everything in our power to educate drivers on what can happen when they choose to drive distracted." 

The Division of Highway Traffic Safety provided nearly $1.2 million in state grant funding to 157 police departments statewide to assist with New Jersey's "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." enforcement efforts. Among these, 43 police departments in South Jersey received funding for saturation patrols during the month-long campaign. 

Atlantic County police departments in Absecon, Brigantine, Hamilton, Linwood, Mullica, Northfield, Pleasantville and Ventor received funds to participate in the ticketing blitz, along with Bordentown City, Burlington Township, Evesham, New Hanover, Pemberton, Riverside and Willingboro in Burlington County. 

Other South Jersey police departments taking part include Barrington, Gloucester Township, Lawnside and Stratford in Camden County; Lower, Middle and North Wildwood in Cape May County; Millville and Vineland in Cumberland County; Clayton, Deptford, East Greenwich, Elk, Franklin, Glassboro, Greenwich, Harrison, Logan, Mantue, Monroe Township, Paulsboro, Pitman, Rowan University, Washington, Westville and Woodsbury in Gloucester County; and Pennsville in Salem County. 

As part of New Jersey's efforts to curb distracting driving, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety is bringing back its "Memorial" public awareness campaign, which uses billboards, social media, radio and streaming audio to honor the victims of traffic fatalities throughout the state. 

The original campaign, which ran from Nov. 23 through Jan. 1, generated more than 131 million impressions on social media. This round of the campaign includes new images to reinforce public safety messaging about traffic safety and distracted driving.