Jersey drivers ignore cell phone ban
N.J. police write an average of 9,770 cell phone tickets a month. Meanwhile, a poll found an increase in texting while driving.
New Jersey has a law prohibiting drivers from texting or talking on their cell phones while behind the wheel, but it's clear many have not gotten the message.
The evidence is in the number of tickets state police officers have written over the last two years. In the past 23 months, 224,725 citations -- an average of 9,770 a month -- have been issued to motorists for violating the state's cell phone law.
"Any cell phone conversation while driving, whether handheld or hands-free, is distracting and dangerous, and can result in crashes, injuries, and in some cases the loss of life,” said Pam Fischer, director of New Jersey’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “For the safety of all roadway users, we must hang up and just drive."
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New Jersey's primary cell phone law went into effect on March 1, 2008. Motorists violating the law face a $100 fine plus court costs and fees.
Since 2008 there have been 3,610 crashes involving a motorist using a handheld cell phone in New Jersey, resulting in 1,548 injuries and 13 deaths. During the same time period, 3,129 crashes involving the use of a hands-free device resulted in 1,495 injuries and six fatalities.
"These numbers are staggering, but perhaps even more disturbing is the number of crashes involving cell phone use and texting that go unreported," Fischer said. "We know that many drivers involved in a crash don't admit to these behaviors, which means that the actual number of cell phone-related crashes in New Jersey is much greater."
Driving while texting increases
Meanwhile, a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll conducted last year found that the number of New Jersey drivers who said they sent text messages while driving increased after the law took effect.
It said 57% of drivers under the age of 30 said they have texted while driving, up six percentage points from 2008, while more than one in four drivers age 30 to 44 said they have sent a text message, up eight points from the previous year. Also, 12% of motorists between 45 and 60 said they have sent text messages while driving.
At least 1.4 million crashes are caused each year nationwide by drivers talking on their cell phones, while a minimum of 200,000 crashes are caused by drivers texting behind the wheel, according to the National Safety Council.
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