New Jersey officials have announced this year’s holiday traffic safety program to target aggressive and impaired drivers.
Initiatives include NJDOT funding for the State Police aggressive driving patrols, technology-based crash intervention and a federal grant to municipal departments for DWI enforcement.
Through a $2.4 million NJDOT grant, the State Police will be able to substantially strengthen their aggressive driver program. Fourteen existing vehicles will be retrofitted with upgraded emergency lighting for use as unmarked troop cars. With the exception of toll roads, the State Police have not deployed unmarked cars on patrol for several years. In addition, the funds will used to put more troopers on patrol in areas plagued with high numbers of accidents.
“With the beginning of the holiday season and its focus on friends and family, we are urging all motorists to drive safely,” said Acting Governor Richard Codey. “Those who don’t get the message will face the consequences of increased traffic enforcement from State Police and our local law enforcement partners, who will be taking a hard line against aggressive and drug- or alcohol-impaired drivers.”
Based on maps overlaid with computerized accident data, documented locations for speed violators, and aggressive driver calls, State Police have targeted specific locations on major roadways throughout the state for these extra patrols. Troopers will target critical areas of Rt. 78, Rt. 287, Rt. 80, Rt. 195, Rt. 295 and Rt. 55.
“Technology has shown us where accidents most often occur,” said Attorney General Harvey at a press conference at the State Police Troop D Headquarters on the New Jersey Turnpike. “We are now placing extra troopers where they will have the greatest impact on bad driving behaviors, thereby preventing accidents and saving lives during this holiday season.”
“The objective for our aggressive driver patrols is not to give tickets,” said Lt. Colonel Juan Mattos, Deputy Superintendent of Operations. “We know through research and by our own experience that the mere sight of an unmarked troop car pulling over a motorist will curb aggressive driving behavior for miles. Our objective is to reduce accidents, injuries and deaths through smart enforcement.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about one-third of traffic crashes and about two-thirds of the resulting fatalities can be attributed to driving behavior commonly associated with aggressive driving. These include improper lane change, improper passing, following too closely and speeding.
Thanksgiving is traditionally the heaviest travel holiday with millions of extra motorists taking to the highways. The New Jersey Turnpike is estimating almost four million vehicles to travel the road over the six-day Thanksgiving period from Wednesday, Nov. 24 through Monday, Nov. 29. During that same period, the Garden State Parkway estimates that more than 6.6 million drivers will travel their road. Wednesday will be the most heavily traveled day, with the highest volume between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Statewide accident data shows that 592 people have died in crashes so far this year. While this number represents a tragic loss, it is 9.3% lower than 2003 fatalities for the same period, and 2003 was about 10% below 2002 numbers.
In addition, Harvey announced that the State was also cracking down on impaired drivers. Through a grant from the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, police agencies in Bergen, Essex and Middlesex counties were participating in an impaired driving enforcement program.
According to data from 2001-2003, alcohol was a factor in 37 percent of motor vehicle fatalities in the state. An average of 280 motorists are killed each year in New Jersey alcohol-related crashes. Ten police departments in each county have been awarded money for impaired driver checkpoints and roving patrols through Jan. 2, 2005. Bergen, Essex and Middlesex ranked the highest for alcohol-related fatalities.
The You Drink and Drive, You Lose 2004 Holiday Enforcement Campaign is the latest salvo in the state’s ongoing effort to rid New Jersey’s roadways of drug and alcohol impaired drivers. “Motorists who choose to get behind the wheel after using alcohol or illegal drugs are a tremendous scourge on our highways,” said Roberto Rodriguez, director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “The law enforcement community of the state is committed to arresting impaired drivers and ensuring that the holiday season remains a time of joy rather than a time of sorrow.”
Police will also be ticketing drivers and passengers for seat belt violations. New Jersey’s “primary violation” seat belt law allows officers to stop drivers who are not wearing their seat belts without any other violation. Statistics have repeatedly proven the effectiveness of the simple safety harness.
Although the state’s compliance rate is approximately 82 percent, the remaining 18 percent of motorists who don’t wear seat belts account for almost two-thirds of highway crash deaths. Many of these fatalities are due to people being ejected from vehicles as they overturn. The vast majority of these overturned vehicles retain plenty of “room to live” within the passenger compartment.
The law requires all front seat occupants and all children up to 18 years in the rear seats to be buckled up. Children up through eight years old and up to 80 pounds must be properly secured in a child safety seat.
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