TRENTON – Do you buckle-up every ride? Do you talk on your cell phone or send a text message when you’re behind the wheel? Do you drive faster than the posted speed limit? Did you know that 85 percent of traffic crashes are caused by these types of dangerous driving behaviors?
On October 10, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety is challenging all motorists to participate in “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day,” a national initiative designed to bring to the forefront driving behaviors that can result in tragedies on the road.
Last year in New Jersey, 591 individuals lost their lives in motor vehicle-related crashes. This number represents a 19 percent decline from the previous year, and also marks the lowest number of recorded motor vehicle deaths in the state since 1948.
“Clearly, this effort will go a long way in our continuing efforts to move toward zero fatalities on our roadways,” said Pam Fischer, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “Shining the spotlight on this one day can help create a groundswell of support for safe driving practices that can carry over throughout the year and help us continue to see a decrease in the number of lives senselessly lost in motor vehicle-related crashes.”
According to a 2009 Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMinds Poll of driving behavior, the number of New Jersey motorists who have admitted to sending a text message while behind the wheel increased 40 percent over last year. In addition, the poll found that motorists who text are also more likely to use a hand-held cell phone and drive over the posted speed limit. Eighty-four percent of New Jersey drivers said they drive over 65 miles per hour “at least once in a while,” while 1 in 4 motorists said that they do so “most of the time.” Driving at unsafe speeds was a factor in more than 22,000 crashes in New Jersey last year, a number that has been on the rise since 2001.
In addition, while New Jersey’s front seat belt usage rate increased for the 13th consecutive year to 92.67 percent, only 32 percent of adults and 53 percent of children and teens between the ages of eight and 18 report wearing a seat belt in the backseat. Unbuckled passengers sitting in the rear of a vehicle risk hitting the seat back in front of them, the dashboard, the windshield or even another vehicle occupant if a crash occurs, making them a “bullet” in the event of a crash. An unbelted motor vehicle occupant can also be ejected from the vehicle, resulting in serious injury and often death.
A new web site, www.njbackseatbullets.com, illustrates the dangers of riding unbuckled in the back seat. The site contains information on the lifesaving importance of always buckling up, regardless of where you are riding in the vehicle. The site also includes videos that reinforce the potentially deadly consequences unbelted backseat passengers face in the event of a crash.
“Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day is designed to raise awareness about how each of us is responsible for what happens on the road,” Fischer said. “That means making a commitment to always buckling up, slowing down, and hanging up the phone when you get behind the wheel, and having a designated driver if you plan to drink alcohol. Making safety priority number one will not only positively impact your own safety, but the safety of everyone on the road. On October 10, we’re asking all motorists to take a personal inventory of their behaviors and change those things that are putting themselves and others at risk.”
To help do this, motorists are encouraged to visit the Division’s web site, www.njsaferoads.com, click on the “Stop Aggressive Driving” icon, and take the 38-question quiz.
“You might be surprised by what you learn about yourself,” added Fischer. “While you might have good driving skills based on many years on the road, that doesn’t mean you’re a safe driver.”
Police departments throughout New Jersey are asked to report all traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities that occur on Oct. 10 to the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, for posting on the agency’s website. In addition, municipalities that use variable message boards are displaying traffic safety messages in the days leading up to and on Oct. 10.
Approximately 66 percent of the 496 police agencies in the State, as well as the State Police, reported crash data to the Division following last year’s “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day.” A total of 1,065 crashes took place in New Jersey on that day, resulting in 201 injuries and two fatalities.
Law enforcement agencies, community groups, local government and highway safety organizations can visit the Division’s web site, where educational materials are available to help publicize the effort. Additional information on the program can also be found on www.brakesonfatalities.org.
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