New Jersey is planning on spending $1 million on a multimedia campaign designed to persuade motorists to stop talking or texting on their smartphones while driving.
While standing near a pickup truck recently wrecked in a car crash resulting in two deaths, attributed to distracted driving, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno announced the initiative.
The campaign is called “Just Drive,” and is expected to be a Web, TV, print, radio, and billboard effort to highlight the dangers and penalties of distracted driving while providing an interactive forum for people to share their stories.
Over 80,000 tickets are issued yearly in New Jersey, but government officials realized that enforcing a law that levies a fine of a couple hundred dollars is simply not enough.
According to Thomas Louizou, regional director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, California, Delaware, and Massachusetts reduced distracted-driving crashes under Just Drive (a federally approved outreach, education, and ad campaign).
Last year, the New Jersey Legislature doubled the prior $100 fine for distracted driving and tacking on a $400-$600 penalty for a second offense. Likewise, for a third and subsequent violation, the fine can rise to $800 and you will face a 30-day license suspension.
Half the revenue generated from the fines must go to education and outreach run by the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).
MVC Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez revealed, “Through December, we raised $1 million,” which is enough to launch a website that provides information and grim statistics that might otherwise escape drivers.
Some critics are asking whether it is worth pumping that much money into a campaign designed to stop texting while driving and whether it would be effective at all.
Regardless of the answer, it is worth noting that this campaign will likely lead to heightened enforcement as well.
That means police will be on the lookout even more so than usual. Expect them to be issuing cell phone tickets and pulling people over for distracted driving.