Is distracted driving a problem in New Jersey? Yes. In 2018 car crash fatalities due to distracted driving totaled 146. It’s the leading cause of traffic deaths, more than drunk driving.

Will a task force do a damn thing to change it? No.

Here’s why.

First of all, a major distraction is our addiction with cell phones, particularly texting. But we already have stiff penalties. People do it anyway. Increase them more? People will do it anyway. Why? One, it becomes a dangerous compulsion. Two, the same reason we text to begin with. We think we can get away with it. We think we choose our moments intelligently. We think we can handle what the other dumb drivers can’t. All the penalties in the world is not going to be enough to change that compulsion.

Next, a task force will never work because cell phones are not even the number one cause of driver distraction. You know what is? Getting lost in your own thoughts. Daydreaming. Studies show this. You can put all the public service ads you like and all the electronic signage you wish to tell people to stay focused. The human mind is fallible. We are flawed.

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So when the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee just advanced S561 to establish a task force to study solutions to distracted driving, it is a waste of time. A task force is basically another way of saying, “We have no ideas how to fix this, so our idea is to try to think of ideas.”

Perhaps the only thing that could influence texting while driving is peer pressure. After all the laws and penalties and public service reminders, what in my opinion had the greatest impact on drinking and driving is when it became socially unacceptable to your peers. When we actually fight with our friends over this enough and shame them enough perhaps the attitude will change about cell phones.

Until then, go ahead and play task force if you must, but I’d rather Trenton spend time on property taxes.

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