Put down that cell phone — other drivers are watching
Two months ago, New Jersey law enforcement officials announced the expansion of the #77 Dangerous Driver system — so that people could report distracted drivers, not just aggressive ones.
According to New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porrino, the new initiative is working well.
“Since the program started, we’ve had over a thousand calls, reports of individuals who were engaging in texting and driving or otherwise distracted driving,” he said.
As of June 6, 1,071 calls about distracted drivers have been received through the #77 system by the State Police.
“The State Police has sent out over 600 letters in response warning the registered owners of cars that serious fines and penalties accompany this kind of conduct," Porrino said.
He said the reality is law enforcement officers can’t issue a summons to everyone who is identified as a distracted driver by someone else, but a letter can be sent.
“The letter lays out what the fines and penalties are. It reminds people how dangerous this activity is, and in many cases the expectation is the letter will be sent to parents of kids who are texting and driving," Porrino said.
He said in this way “a parent is able to have a conversation with their child about the dangers of distracted driving, and hopefully take action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Porrino said auto-related fatalities in New Jersey and across the country were up last year because people are still not heeding warnings about driving while distracted.
In 2015 the State Division of Highway Traffic Safety reports, there were 562 roadway fatalities. Last year, that number climbed to 603.
“In response, we decided to ask for the public’s help, and arm the public with the ability to make reports of individuals texting and driving or talking on the phone without using a hands-free device,” he said.
He said the message is “put the phone down, drive the car, be safe, and lets avoid as many fatal accidents in New Jersey as we possibly can.”
In addition to the 1,071 distracted driver calls received since April 6, #77 has also received 10,157 other calls about aggressive driving on New Jersey roadways.
A news release put out by the State Attorney General’s office indicates in addition to the surge of distracted driver calls that have been made over the past two months, grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration resulted in 15,292 summonses being written for cell phone use or texting during that period, and another 7,003 tickets were issued for careless driving.
The release also reports fatalities on New Jersey roadways have decreased 7.4 percent, year-to-date, from 229 in 2016 to 212 in 2017, according to New Jersey State Police statistics last updated on June 6.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
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