TRENTON — It's no joke: New Jersey police are looking for drivers who are texting while behind the wheel.

Across the state, 189 police departments and law enforcement agencies are part of the "U Drive, U Text, U Pay" enforcement campaign that began Saturday to look for drivers texting and talking on hand-held devices. The campaign, which coincides with April being designated as National Distracted Driving Month, also targets other forms of distracted driving, including using a phone or navigational system, eating and drinking, reading and watching videos.

"Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction," according to a state Department of Law and Public Safety statement.

New Jersey will dole out almost $1.2 million in federal funds to 189 towns to finance the April crackdown. Participating law enforcement agencies each receive a grant of $5,550 from the National Safety Council. The campaign runs through April 21.

Tracy Noble of AAA/Mid-Atlantic says a study done by the motorist association found that when drivers engage in distracting behavior, their bran does not refocus on the road for about 27 seconds.

"If you are texting, if you are posting to social media, you are then still thinking about that action and you have not refocused on the road," Noble said.

U Drive, U Text, U Pay logo
U Drive, U Text, U Pay logo (NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety)

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, an estimated 3,477 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted driving in 2015, the most recent stats available on a national level.

Noble says their study shows young millennials are the most frequently distracted, with 88 percent of young people admitting to text while driving.

"We need to change that attitude and move forward with eliminating distractions in the vehicle all together."

“We have seen too many crashes on our roadways as a result of distracted driving and this campaign will hopefully raise awareness of the dangers,” Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said in a statement. “Texting and talking on a cell phone while driving is irresponsible and illegal. It takes the focus off of the roads and may have deadly consequences that otherwise could be avoided.”

The campaign includes roving police patrols, spotters on highway overpasses, and stationary police vehicles prominently placed at strategic locations.

Linden will team up with officers from neighboring Rahway and Woodbridge for intensified enforcement along the Route 1 corridor on Friday.

“We have all seen a car swerving while the driver is using a mobile phone” Lt. Michael Babulski, commander of the Linden Police Traffic Burea,u said. “It is the single most dangerous factor in motor vehicle crashes today. The enforcement of this is something that we take very seriously in Linden, and we recently established an aggressive traffic enforcement unit to specifically target distracted driving and other violations along the Route 1 Corridor in the hopes of reducing crashes.”

The fine for a first offense for talking or texting with a hand held device is $200 to $400. The second offense is $400 to $600. A third offense is $600 to $800, three points on your insurance and a possible 90-day license suspension.

The NJ Division of Highway Safety reported that last year the campaign resulted in 6,687 summonses for cell phone and texting and 6,250 for careless driving.

The campaign begins as texting-and-driving is being cited as the possible cause of a collision between a church's minibus and a pick up truck that killed 13 people in Concan, Texas, on Wednesday. Witnesses said the driver of the pickup was texting as he drifted across the center line and into the path of the bus, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Joe Cutter contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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