As part of the annual distracted driving awareness month, which occurs in April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also conducts their annual “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign in the middle of the month to help encourage drivers to keep their eyes and their attention on the road.
The administration teams up with state and local law enforcement to remind Americans that distracted driving is deadly and illegal. Police around the country will be keeping an eye out for those who are texting while driving or otherwise using their cell phones in a dangerous manner, and won’t hesitate to issue citations where needed.
States Cracking Down on Distracted Driving
Many states are getting more serious when it comes to cracking down on distracted drivers. In New Jersey alone, distracted drivers can face fines of $200 to $400 for a first offense, and may increase to $800 in subsequent violations. During the U Drive campaign, officers will be stepping up patrols with stationary police vehicles placed at strategic locations.
In 2017, this annual campaign resulted in more than 15,000 summonses for cell phone use or for texting, and 7,000 for careless driving. Numbers have gone up in Pennsylvania, too. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, total citations for distracted driving in the state jumped by 52 percent between 2016 and 2017, and increased by a whopping 172% between 2013 and 2017.
Indeed, even the governor’s wife couldn’t get away with driving distracted during the crackdown. According to the Daily Mail, former Governor Chris Christie’s wife, Mary Pat, was pulled over on April 10, 2018, for driving with a cell phone in her hand. She later pled guilty to the charge of operating a vehicle while using a phone and was ordered to pay a $250 fine.
Ohio also plans to pay particular attention to distracted driving in April, with media reports indicating that in 2016-2017, there were 13,997 crashes caused in the state by distractions, with 55 people killed. Patrol officers warn drivers that if they need to answer the phone or write a text message, it’s best to find a safe area and pull over to do so.
West Virginia is one of the few states that has a ban on all hand-held cell phone use while behind the wheel, and also prohibits drivers from texting while driving. As of July 1, 2013, the use of hand-held phones became a primary offense, and police officers can pull people over on suspicion of using one.
New York, too, is participating in the April campaign, with the New York Times indicating that tickets for texting rose by 20 percent in 2017, to more than 110,000.
NHTSA Urges Drivers to Turn Electronics Off
The NHTSA states that distracted driving killed 3,450 people in 2016, which was an increase of 8 percent over 2014. The administration urges drivers to set aside everything else while driving and to be honest about the addictive nature of electronic devices and turn them off.