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Increased fines may lessen distracted driving car accidents

Distracted driving causes many car accidents in the Red Bank area every year. Although a driver can be distracted by a variety of things, mobile devices are among the primary contributing factors to distracted driving accidents. Drivers who are busy texting on their cell phones are less likely to notice road hazards or other vehicles and may travel significant distances without watching the road. Texting is blamed on a variety of serious car accidents and is also a contributing factor in many high profile ferry and mass transit accidents across the country.

Government agencies have tried to curb the number of texting drivers for several years. In the past many heavily advertised anti-texting campaigns have failed, but a new study shows that impacting a New Jersey driver’s pocketbook may be the key to getting them to put down their cell phones.

The study used two pilot sites to test the effectiveness of increased law enforcement on handheld cell phone use and texting. Texting while driving was treated like other serious safety hazards such as drunk driving and lack of seat belt use, and officers handed out thousands of tickets through checkpoints. Law enforcement authorities also conducted saturation patrols to support a massive advertising campaign that was designed to educate individuals on the laws against texting while driving. Researchers noted a sharp decrease in cell phone related distracted driving as a result of this campaign.

“These findings show that strong laws, combined with highly visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cellphone use behind the wheel,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgment, especially when half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted-driving accidents.”

Source: The Washington Post, “Fines lower drivers’ use of cellphones,” Ashley Halsey III, 7/10/11

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