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New Jersey lawmakers work to strengthen distracted driving law

In recent years, state and federal government traffic safety officials have run a massive campaign, attempting to educate drivers on the many dangers of talking, texting or emailing on a cell phone from behind the wheel. And, in some ways, that campaign has been highly successful. Multiple surveys show that drivers in Hackensack and throughout the state and country are now well aware that distracted driving significantly increases the chances of car accidents, injuries and fatalities. But, as those same surveys indicate, motorists continue to text and drive.

So if education and awareness isn't deterring drivers from engaging in these dangerous behaviors, what is it going to take to eliminate distracted driving? New Jersey and several other states have enacted laws that limit or completely ban texting behind the wheel, with more soon to come. Thus far, however, these laws have proven difficult to enforce, and have had little efficacy. In fact, a recent study found that only three percent fewer people text behind the wheel than in states with no such laws.

Perhaps we need to start thinking of distracted driving along the same lines as drunk driving. When Mothers Against Drunk Driving was formed, it set out to change social norms and behaviors. Slowly but surely, drunk driving came to be seen as an immoral, harmful behavior, and the laws against it have continued to strengthen.

It seems that lawmakers in New Jersey may have the same idea. Last month, a committee in the state legislature approved a measure that would add using a cell phone while driving to the list of "reckless" behaviors. If it becomes law, people drive distracted and cause injury or death to another person could be charged with vehicular assault or homicide, similar to the current state law on drunk driving.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a driver who was talking, texting or e-mailing behind the wheel, please contact Breslin and Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: Philly.com, "Texting while driving is illegal and unsafe. Why is it the norm?," Jonathan Purtle, July 19, 2012

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