Somerset Police Launch Distracted Driving Initiative [VIDEO/POLL]
To try and curb distracted drivers on New Jersey's roads, a group of Somerset County organizations have launched a new initiative targeting drivers who text behind the wheel.
The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, the Somerset County Association of Chiefs of Police, Somerset Medical Center and Emergency Medical Associates launched a public awareness campaign on the dangers of distracted driving in an effort to reduce car accidents and save lives.
With the rising popularity of smartphones, texting is becoming the preferred method of communication for many of us. In fact, the average American sends or receives 40 texts per day with those in the 18-24 age group texting more than 100 times a day, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. And many of those texts are either sent or received while behind the wheel.
"Central New Jerseyans spend a lot of time on the road and multitasking has become the norm as we try to juggle the responsibilities of work, school and home," said Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano. "Even though drivers know texting while driving is distracting and punishable by a fine in New Jersey, many continue to do so, putting themselves, their passengers and other drivers at risk."
In partnership with county police departments, the Prosecutor's Office has launched a new initiative targeting drivers who text. Drivers stopped by police in Somerset County for texting while driving will receive a written warning. They will be required to view an educational video on texting while driving within 15 days of the incident or receive a summons and $100 fine.
"It is our hope that the video will shock people into realizing how dangerous it is to text and drive and prompt them to put their phone away when they get behind the wheel," said William Parenti, president of the Somerset County Association of Chiefs of Police. "When you text, you take your eyes off the road, your hand off the wheel and your mind off of driving - which can be a deadly combination."
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers are four times as likely to get into a serious car crash when using a hand-held device while driving.
"At Somerset Medical Center, we see far too many lives devastated as a result of careless driving," said Dennis McGill, MD, medical director of Somerset Medical Center's Emergency Department. "We are proud to partner with the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office and the Somerset County Police Chiefs Association to help promote safety on our roads."
The organizations will also be distributing educational materials to area schools and businesses and will conduct informational programs for parents, teachers, school nurses and teens throughout the year. They will encourage all drivers to sign a pledge committing to safe driving - without the distractions of texting or using their cell phones.
"We are trying to get the word out about the perils of distracted driving" said Soriano.
Drivers stopped by police in Somerset County for texting while driving will receive a written warning. They will be required to view this educational video on texting while driving within 15 days of the incident, or receive a summons and $100 fine. (Courtesy AT&T)