How Can We Stop Distracted Driving In New Jersey? [POLL/AUDIO]
There is enforcement, there are laws, legislation is heading through the Statehouse to up the penalties and punishments and yet, drivers in New Jersey are still getting behind the wheel while talking on their cell phones.
Last year, there were 3,244 accidents involving cell phones. Five years ago, before police were allowed to pull drivers over for cell phone violations, there were 3,287, a difference of only 43 crashes.
"Unfortunately, what we have to do is change our culture," said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "It's one of those things that has to be driven home time and time again." Noble sights a study that was conducted in 2011. "We asked people how distracted they felt when they were talking on a cell phone and driving. Only 26 percent of people said they felt distracted. But, when you asked them how distracted other people are when talking on the phone and driving, they said 91 percent of other drivers were distracted. You want to point the finger at everyone else. But, what we need people to do is look in the mirror and say 'I'm part of this problem' and accept responsibility for it."
"When you're talking on a cell phone, you may not be taking your eyes off the road, but you're taking your mind off the road," said Noble. "When you're carrying on a conversation, you're thinking about that, not about what your next move on the roadway is going to be. We really need to change everyone's thought process when it comes to cell phone use and vehicles. When the seat belt law first went into effect, people griped and groaned. But, now we have a 90 percent compliance rate in New Jersey. Same thing with drunk driving. It is socially unacceptable to do it."
"Unfortunately, it doesn't hit home with a lot of folks until they have a personal experience with a crash or tragedy that effects them personally that gives them that wake up call. We're asking people to have that wake up call on their own and not wait until there is a tragedy in their life," said Noble.
It's also important for parents to set a good example. "It starts way before kids get behind the wheel of a car. We're looking at children now who have been in car seats since they came home from the hospital. These kids are buckling up when they get behind the wheel of a car because it's all they've ever known. The example truly does start at home. We need parents to drive responsibly not to drive distracted and that, over time, will become the norm."