By Christie Duffy
Crash victim Gabriel Hurley stood with law enforcement today to drive home the consequences. He was on top of the world in June 2009. He had a great job, a college education and he was headed to Las Vegas with friends the following day. Instead, his life changed abruptly, forever.
“I’ve lost my eyesight, my previous appearance, my sense of smell, you know many freedoms we as people take for granted,” Hurley said.
He does not call the crash an accident. He says it could have been prevented.
“That piece of metal went from his car, through my windshield and hit me directly in the face. And that’s when my new life began,” said Hurley.
Police in Paramus are pulling drivers off the road, issuing tickets for distracted driving. Specifically, police are targeting young drivers in their teens and 20s.
“More than at any other time in New Jersey’s history, drivers are inattentive behind the wheel,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman.
Hoffman says distracted driving crashes are on the rise — killing more than 1,600 people in the state in a decade. During that time, inattention contributed to just about every other crash on our roadways, prompting the generals’ order today:
“No texting, no tweeting, no hand held calls. In fact, it is a far better idea not to take a hands free call,” Hoffman said.
Sixty police departments across New Jersey and thousands across the country have received funding to get tough on distracted drivers.
The attorney general says that over 3,000 summonses have already been issued statewide as part of this campaign.
Officials say enforcement campaigns, mixed with education, have yielded proven results.
“We know they are effective. We had two model programs — one in California and one in Delaware and the city of Syracuse. We were able to reduce texting and driving and talking on phones by about 30 to 40 percent in each of those cases,” said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Regional Administrator Thomas Louiszou.
Fines for distracted driving with a cell phone are set to double or quadruple in New Jersey, beginning July 1.
Current fines are $100 plus court costs.
But this summer, first offenders will pay $200 to $400.
Second offense fines will range from $400 to $600. And a third or greater offense will mean three points on your license and a maximum fine of $800. Penalties that crash victims feel are still too low, compared to the cost of life.