Distracted Driving Task Force Proposed [POLL/AUDIO]
Legislation creating a task force to address the epidemic known as distracted driving was advanced by a Senate committee on Thursday. The "Task Force on Driver Distractions" would consist of experts and state officials, charged with developing recommendations on how to keep drivers' eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
The task force's work would include recommendations for a public information campaign on distracted driving, as well as suggestions on improving highway safety by reducing motor vehicle accidents related to the illegal use of a cell phone.
"We have to take additional steps to reach drivers and to educate them about the very real dangers of distracted driving," explained State Senator Fred Madden (D), who served as a New Jersey State Trooper for nearly 30 years. "This task force will take a hard look at what has become a pervasive problem in this state, and elsewhere, and make recommendations to address it."
Madden noted cell phone use was the impetus of this bill, but if the task force can address other distractions like eating or fiddling with a GPS, that would be an added bonus.
"Even with the number of deaths and injuries that have occurred as a result of distracted driving, we still see people on our roadways texting and talking while driving," said State Senator Donald Norcross (D), Chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee that approved the measure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 15 lives are lost each day in the United States due to crashes that involve distracted driving; another 1,200 people are injured.
"Distracted driving is rampant among our youth," said Lindsey Giannini with People Against Distracted Driving. "We need the recommendations from the task force so we can make more legislation."
The creator of PADD, Mike Kellenyi, lost his daughter to a distracted driver in April 2012. The Gloucester County resident said if the proposed bill becomes law, some parents may not have to go through the same nightmare he's experiencing.
"Kids don't care anymore," he told the Senate panel. "They don't realize what happens when you take your eyes off the road."
A bill signed into law last summer makes it easier for prosecutors to get convictions for vehicular homicide or assault by auto against a person who illegally uses a cell phone behind the wheel and injures or kills someone.
The task force measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote.