New Jersey Drivers Think They’re Better Than New York Drivers

June 29, 2007

New Jersey drivers buckle themselves in, but do so while speeding and scorning New Yorkers, according to a new university poll.

The poll also found Garden State men are more likely than women to drive after drinking or when drowsy and to deliver those not-so-friendly gestures to other drivers.

The poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind found 87 percent of New Jersey drivers always wear a seat belt. Half say they drive more than 65 mph often or most of the time.

New Jerseyans think highly of their own driving skills, with 68 percent rating themselves as “above average compared to most other drivers on the road.”

Fifty-five percent cited New Yorkers as the worst drivers. Even South Jersey drivers pointed to New Yorkers over Pennsylvanians by a 49 percent to 20 percent margin.

Overall, only 15 percent cited Pennsylvanians as the worst, with 9 percent citing their fellow New Jerseyans, even though that wasn’t a stated choice.

“That’s frankly hard to understand,” quipped Peter Woolley, the poll director, “considering all the above-average drivers in the state.”

The survey, co-sponsored by the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, comes after Gov. Jon S. Corzine was seriously injured in an April 12 Garden State Parkway car crash in which he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. His state trooper-driven sport utility vehicle was going 91 mph in a 65 mph zone just before the crash.

Corzine voluntarily paid a $46 fine for not wearing a seat belt and has urged everyone to wear seat belts.

The poll found:

3 percent of New Jersey drivers never wear a seat belt.

49 percent exceed 65 mph on the highway often or most of the time, with 73 percent of those who commute more than 20 miles and 71 percent ages 17 to 30 saying they exceed 65 mph often or most of the time.

81 percent of drivers think they can go 70 mph and not have to worry about getting a ticket, with 33 percent saying they can go 75 mph and not worry.

“Speed is a critical factor in the severity of crashes,” said Pam Fischer, state Division of Highway Traffic Safety director. “Slow it down and everyone will be safer.”

The poll found most drivers think it’s either somewhat or very unlikely that they’ll be involved in a crash, although Fischer said an average of two people per day die on New Jersey roads.

David Weinstein, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, expressed concern about the findings.

“There’s an underlying attitude of ‘not me’ in these poll results — I won’t be the one to cause a crash, even if I speed, or drink and drive or become distracted,” he said. “There’s a complete disconnect in drivers between crashes and what causes them. It’s disturbing.”

Fifty-five percent of drivers polled say the state should use cameras to enforce speed limits and red lights

Twenty-six percent say they use a hand-held cell phone while driving either “very often” or “sometimes.” Still, 73 percent say they support giving police authority to ticket any driver they see talking on a hand-held phone, a bill that recently passed the Legislature.

The poll found 23 percent of drivers have driven after drinking in the past three years, including 33 percent of men and 14 percent of women.

Men also are more likely than women to drive while drowsy — 39 percent to 22 percent — and to have made a rude gesture to another driver — 32 percent to 21 percent.

The telephone poll took place from April 25 through May 22 using 947 randomly selected New Jersey residents age 17 and over who reported they drive regularly. It has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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