By Desirée Taylor
Drive safely. Law enforcement officials have been trying to drive home that message for years. Motorists appear to be heeding that warning because there was a record low number of fatalities on New Jersey roadways last year.
“Fewer people dying, fewer people getting injured,” said Zach Hosseini of the New Jersey Division of Traffic and Highway Safety. “Of course any death a tragedy, and we are not satisfied with it but overall the trend is good.”
The trend is encouraging. Preliminary state police statistics show there were 542 fatalities on New Jersey roadways in 2013. That’s a drop of 8 percent from the previous year — and the lowest since the 1940s.
“There’s a number of reasons for that, I think that the cars are safer. We know that. I also think that the public sector, the government, and the private sector companies are very interested in the issue. Manufacturers of cars are making their cars safer,” Hosseini said.
Stepped up enforcements on the state, county and local level may also be encouraging motorists to follow the rules of the road or pay a fine. And educational campaigns are also encouraging safe driving habits.
“We’re in midst of one now — Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. More than 400 law enforcement agencies in the state are participating in this program. We have more officers on the road looking for drunk driving. There are saturation patrols, there are sobriety check points, so the high visibility in law enforcement we have seen over the course 10 years that this program has been happening is the most effective ways to change behavior,” Hosseini said.
Drunk driving numbers are down and seat belt usage is way up — at around 90 percent. But distracted driving remains a problem.
“AAA nationally has very extensive survey and report on distracted drivers. One of the statistics that came from that report is that one in 10 automobile fatalities is caused by distracted driving. And that equates to approximately 3,000 deaths per year,” said AAA North Jersey Executive Vice President David Hughes.
AAA is among the many groups looking to address this problem and other forms of distracted driving.
“The obvious ones are cellphone usage, texting while driving, applying make-up, eating, all of those things contribute to the driver not being aware of the surroundings on the road,” said ????.
“Distracted driving is a major concern and something that in the very near future, the state will be working with local groups to try to have those crackdowns we have for drunk driving and seat belts,” Hosseini said.
But law enforcement can’t do it alone. The reduce the number of deaths on New Jersey roadways they say motorists have to stay sober, alert, and obeying traffic laws.