TRENTON – Have you ever made a “quick” call or sent a text message while driving, thinking “it will only take a minute so I’ll be safe?” Or maybe you were running late and drove faster than the posted speed limit or passed someone on the right since they were “going too slow anyway?”
New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer explained that these unsafe and potentially deadly driving behaviors are the cause of approximately 85% of traffic crashes, and they’re occurring everyday on roadways across the state and nation.
“To help bring the tragic consequences of these unsafe driving practices to the forefront, the Division is again asking all drivers to participate in Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day on October 10,” Fischer said. “This annual program is designed to help move the nation toward zero fatalities by encouraging motorists to obey all traffic laws, including buckling up, every ride; driving the posted speed limit; avoiding distractions while driving, including talking on a cell phone or texting; and never drinking and driving.”
“Shining the spotlight on this one day can help create a groundswell of support for good driving behaviors that can carry over throughout the year,” said Sgt. Dominick Sforza of the Rahway Police Department’s Traffic Bureau.
According to a 2010 Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind, sponsored in partnership with the Division, the number of New Jersey motorists who admitted that they have sent a text message while driving increased 20% between 2009 and 2010. While young drivers are still more likely to text and drive, according to the poll, there has been a marked increase in texting by motorists 30 to 60 years of age. The poll found that 37% of drivers between the ages of 30 and 44 had sent a text while driving, up 9% from last year, while 17% of drivers between the ages of 45 and 60 say they have also done this, a 12% increase from 2009.
The poll also indicated that younger drivers are more likely to drive faster than the posted speed limit, while drivers of all ages who commute long distances to work are more likely to speed, and text or talk on a hand-held cell phone.
Extra State Police patrols will be assigned to enforce traffic laws in some of the more accident-prone areas. But, Major Heidi Scripture, State Police Field Operations Commander, believes this approach is only partially effective. “Enforcement is not a cure-all. Ultimately, reducing fatalities comes down to a personal decision to drive in a more focused and defensive manner,” she said. “I wish I could take every careless driver to the scene of a fatal crash to see first-hand the carnage wrought by one poor decision.”
“The decisions we make when behind the wheel can have a life-changing impact not only on ourselves, but everyone else on the road,” Fischer added. “While “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day” helps to raise awareness about our driving behaviors, it also challenges us to make positive changes that can last a lifetime.”
Last year in New Jersey, 583 people lost their lives in motor vehicle-related crashes, down from 590 in 2008. The decline continues a three-year downward trend in motor vehicle fatalities and marks the lowest number of recorded motor vehicle deaths in the State since the 1940s.
“While we continue to make progress in improving safety on our roadways, there is still a great deal to be done,” Fischer said.
“‘Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day’ not only raises awareness about the individual responsibility we have for our driving behaviors, but also engages drivers in making positive changes behind-the-wheel every day of the year,” Sforza added.
Police departments throughout New Jersey will be asked to report the total number of crashes, and crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities that occur on Oct. 10, to the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the State’s lead traffic safety agency. The Division will post this information on its website following the campaign. Approximately 72 percent of the 498 police agencies in the State, as well as the State Police, reported their crash data to the Division following the 2009 “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day.” A total of 789 crashes took place in New Jersey on that day, resulting in two fatalities. In addition, 165 of those crashes involved injuries.
Additional information on the “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day” is available by logging on to www.brakesonfatalities.org .
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