In honor of National Distracted Driving Awareness month, the state of New Jersey began a special effort to implement the nationwide “UDrive, Utext, UPay” campaign, starting on April 1. This campaign, which may be spreading to D.C. very soon, aims to help decrease the alarmingly frequent distracted driving accidents that continue to cause injuries and claim lives.
Rising accident rates—and soaring cellphone popularity—have led the federal government to start to offer grants to police departments to help with enforcement. To start, 60 New Jersey districts will tap into that federal grant in order to pay overtime to officers who volunteer to be part of a special distracted driving unit.
“Officers are going to be doing a hundred hours of this special detail: distracted drivers with cellphones,” Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi said. “Nothing else.”
Engelwood police see the consequences of driving while on a cellphone everyday. One officer stated that it took a mile for one woman to notice him attempting to pull her over; even when the police vehicle’s lights were flashing and the officer used a blaring megaphone, she was still too distracted by her phone to look in the rear-view mirror and notice she was being pulled over.
Campaign Enforcement Details
The initial campaign will last three weeks, April 1 through April 21, and will focus strictly on cellphone use while driving; if a police officer witnesses a cellphone in the hand of a driver, he will enforce the campaign and either ticket or arrest the driver depending on the situation.
Unfortunately, some people misinterpret the policy and believe that if they aren’t texting or don’t have the phone to their ear, they’re safe from enforcement. However, even when using the speaker option, if the phone is in your hand, you’re still susceptible to distraction and therefore still liable under the policy’s enforcement guidelines.
In addition to the three week campaign, general enforcement of the law will take effect in the beginning of July with steep fines and consequences.
- $100 to $200 fines will be issued for talking or texting while driving
- Subsequent violations could cause fines to increase to $400 or more
- Habitual violations could lead to convictions and incarceration
Sponsors hope that public recognition of the campaign and the future monetary and legal penalties imposed will decrease cellphone-related accidents and increase awareness of the dangers involved when a driver pays more attention to his phone than to the road.
Do you know someone who texts while driving? Help her to realize the potential risks she is creating when she gets behind the wheel. Share this information or have her browse one of our other articles on the dangers of distracted driving. It doesn’t hurt to know the facts, but ignorance may be fatal. Feel free to contact us for additional information.