South Jersey is taking decisive action against distracted driving as over 40 police departments join forces in a month-long ticket blitz throughout April. The initiative, named “U Drive. U Text. U Pay,” aligns with National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and aims to address the pressing issue of inattentive motorists on New Jersey’s roadways.
Beginning on Saturday and running until Sunday, April 30, law enforcement agencies in New Jersey are collaborating with national partners to conduct targeted operations against unsafe driving practices, with a specific focus on talking or texting while driving.
Since its inception in 2019, the campaign has shed light on critical safety concerns on the roads while reminding drivers to adhere to state driving laws. Using handheld electronic devices while operating a vehicle is illegal in New Jersey, with first-time offenders facing fines ranging from $200 to $400, and subsequent violations carrying fines of up to $800. Additionally, repeat offenses can result in the addition of three insurance points, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Last year’s crackdown on distracted driving led to over 8,000 citations for cell phone use or texting, as well as nearly 4,000 citations for careless driving across the state. Violations can also be issued for activities such as eating or drinking, watching videos, reading, or adjusting the radio, according to the Department of Law & Public Safety.
Attorney General Matthew Platkin emphasized the importance of public safety, stating, “Our efforts to reduce distracted driving go hand in hand with the Murphy Administration’s focus on the safety and security of all New Jerseyans. Distracted driving kills — it is that simple.”
Data from the Attorney General’s Office reveals that distracted driving is a leading cause of crashes in New Jersey, accounting for 49% of all crashes between 2017 and 2021, resulting in 915 traffic fatalities during that period. Nearly 23% of crashes involving distracted drivers caused one or more injuries. A study conducted by Rowan University found that over 20% of drivers on certain New Jersey roads were distracted at any given time, with cell phones being the primary source of distraction, as reported by NJ Spotlight News.
NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti stressed the responsibility of drivers to prioritize safety, stating, “There is no excuse for texting while driving; you are risking your life and the lives of others. Each driver has a responsibility to all users of the road system to drive safely, and we will continue to do everything in our power to educate drivers on what can happen when they choose to drive distracted.”
To support New Jersey’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” enforcement efforts, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety has provided nearly $1.2 million in state grant funding to 157 police departments statewide. In South Jersey, 43 police departments have received funding for saturation patrols during the month-long campaign. Participating departments include those in Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.
Alongside the ticket blitz, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety is relaunching its “Memorial” public awareness campaign, employing billboards, social media, radio, and streaming audio to honor the victims of traffic fatalities throughout the state. The campaign aims to generate awareness and reinforce messages about traffic safety and the dangers of distracted driving.