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Distracted Driving the Biggest Factor in New Jersey Fatal Crashes


Researchers recently conducted a three-month analysis of about three million anonymous drivers. Results showed that Americans use their phones just about every time they get behind the wheel.

Conducted by safe-driving app “Zendrive,” the analysis showed that in 88 percent of the car trips, a driver used their smartphone, spending an average of 3.5 minutes on the phone during an hour-long trip. (Other studies indicate that just two seconds of distraction significantly increases the risk of a crash).

In addition, the analysis reported on the “worst” states for distracted driving. These included Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. New Jersey was the 45th worst state for distracted driving. A State Police analysis of 2016’s fatal crashes also showed that distracted driving continued to be a top factor in those crashes.

Driver Inattention the Leading Cause of Fatal Crashes in New Jersey

The good news is that according to the State of New Jersey Highway Safety Plan for 2018, crashes in New Jersey related to driver inattention actually declined in 2015 to 128,496, with further reductions expected in 2016. But driver distraction “remains the most significant cause of fatal and incapacitating crashes.”

The State goes on to say the number of times driver inattention was cited as a cause of a fatal crash was nine times higher than the total crashes cited for unsafe speed between 2011 and 2015. Unsafe speed was a contributing factor in 6.5 percent of all crashes in 2015, whereas driver inattention was a contributing factor in 52 percent of the crashes.

In response to this problem, NJ implemented a new initiative in 2017 that allows residents to report dangerous drivers more easily. The #77 alert system, which has been used for reporting aggressive driving, can now be used to report all forms of dangerous driving, including drivers on a cell phone. New Jersey adds that drivers spotted talking or texting while driving will receive warning letters.

New Jersey has a goal to reduce total distracted driving-related fatalities and notes that both distracted driving and speed contribute significantly to both fatal and non-fatal crashes.

New Jersey Working to Reduce Distracted Driving Crashes

The age group most involved in crashes attributed to distracted driving in New Jersey were 21-30 years of age. Interestingly, the highest occurrences of these crashes were on Saturdays and Sundays, with 51.2 percent of fatal distracted driving crashes occurring between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Bergen County experienced the highest number of these crashes, followed closely by Middlesex County and Essex County.

The State plans to provide funds to police agencies to conduct special enforcement patrols targeting distracted drivers who aren’t complying with cell phone and texting laws. They also plan to continue promoting the #77 alert system for reporting distracted driving and will offer grants during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April to those regions most affected by distracted driving. The grant money is to be used to pay police overtime for enforcement over about a three-week period.

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