MIDDLESEX COUNTY – Don’t Drive Dangerously, a multi-phase traffic safety initiative to combat distracted driving in Middlesex County, got its start June 15 as officials from Middlesex County, East Brunswick and Old Bridge gathered for a kick-off event.
“This countywide campaign will bring attention to the very real consequences of driving while texting, talking on a handheld device or using many other electronic distractions,” said Freeholder H. James Polos, chairperson of the Public Safety and Health Committee.
Co-sponsored by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the townships of East Brunswick and Old Bridge, this initiative will be delivered in phases, with Phase I focusing on driver education. That phase started at the media event and will continue with aggressive outreach.
“The East Brunswick Police Department gives its full support to Middlesex County’s Distracted Driver Initiative,” said East Brunswick Deputy Police Chief William Krause. “Too often police officers are called upon to investigate serious or fatal accidents where the cause can be directly linked to improper driver actions.”
He added: “This initiative has taken the approach to enforce the necessary laws through education. The goal is to teach people about the serious potential consequences of distracted driving and, hopefully, prevent such accidents from taking place. If the program results in one less serious injury or fatality, then it is a complete success.”
Old Bridge Police Chief William Volkert said: “As we all know, distractive driving has become an epidemic in recent years, and as a result, quite frankly, many lives have been ruined. This is a great effort on the part of law enforcement to bring awareness to the consequences associated with cell phone use while driving.”
“This campaign will give drivers of all ages the opportunity to educate themselves and understand that accidents occur in seconds, not minutes,” Volkert added.
Various traffic safety agencies, including Keep Middlesex Moving (KMM) and Robert Wood Johnson- Injury Prevention, will be jointly delivering distracted driving presentations to area high schools.
Concurrently, the East Brunswick and Old Bridge Police Departments will pilot an enforcement program from June 15 through Sept. 3, with the issuance of violator summonses that will require the viewing of an educational video to avoid a fine.
Polos said, “Upon warning issuance, violators will be directed per written instruction on the front of the warning to log onto the mcturnoffthephone.com website within 15 days and watch a 15-minute video followed by five multiple choice questions. Once the video is viewed and the questions answered successfully, this information is delivered electronically to the respective municipal police department.
“For those that fail to follow these requisite instructions, a summons will be issued from the respective police department for violation of NJSA 39: 39:4-97.3, ‘Use of hands-free wireless telephone in moving vehicle’ and sent via US mail,” Polos said.
Phase II of the initiative will begin on or about Sept. 3, and will consist of full enforcement of distracted driving via the issuance of traffic summonses.
“This multi-phase distracted driving awareness campaign combines the components of education, prevention, and enforcement that will reduce traffic accidents and save lives,” said Joseph W Krisza, Department Head of the County’s Public Safety and Health Department.
The Borough of Sayreville Municipal Alliance will aid in this effort by providing the use of a billboard to advertise the Distracted Driving Initiative.
Furthermore, the Sayreville Municipal Alliance has offered to host a number of education activities in the community, including the schools. These efforts will be funded through the 2012 Sayreville Municipal Alliance allocation, which was awarded by the Board of Chosen Freeholders on April 5, 2012. The billboard message will be displayed during the summer months when most youth and families are likely to do more traveling.
“Middlesex County is committed to providing the highest quality of life for our residents including safer roadways,” said Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano. “We are lucky to have such outstanding partners in the community who share our goal.”
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