Annual initiative warns motorists against distracted driving

TRENTON, NJ — As distracted driving continues to claim more lives on New Jersey roadways than any other risky driving behavior, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the Division of Highway Traffic Safety have announced the launch of a statewide public awareness campaign aimed at providing motorists with good reasons to give the road their undivided attention.

The “Take Control Of Your Destiny” campaign — and its slogan “You Have Places to Go. Don’t Drive Distracted.” — will begin appearing this month in digital ads throughout the state, as well as on the internet and Pandora radio. The ads feature images of colorfully decorated steering wheels that remind drivers what is uniquely important to them and sends a message that maintaining focus on the road ahead means they will ultimately get to where they are really going in life.

The campaign launch coincides with the kickoff of April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness month, a time when states across the country join together to raise awareness of the dangers of risky behind-the-wheel behaviors like texting, chatting on handheld cell phones, eating and applying makeup.

“Driver inattention is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New Jersey and we’re working to change that behavior through a public awareness campaign that uses the power of positive messaging,” Grewal said. “We’re reminding people what’s at stake every time they get behind the wheel. We want drivers of all ages to realize that their plans and dreams for the future depend on making safe choices here and now.”

According to New Jersey State Police statistics, distracted driving was to blame for more than a quarter of the fatal crashes that occurred in New Jersey from 2015 through 2019, claiming the lives of 730 drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists. During that same five-year period, more than half of all crashes in the state — both fatal and non-fatal — involved a distracted driver.

While distracted driving crashes declined for the third straight year in 2019, they still outpaced those caused by any other risky behaviors, including speeding or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

 “The real tragedy of distracted driving fatalities is that they are so easily preventable. All it takes is for drivers to keep their minds on their driving and their hands on the wheel,” said Eric Heitmann, director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “Our campaign encourages drivers to put down the phone and focus on the important matter of what lies ahead — literally and figuratively. In doing so, they will be taking control of their own destinies and protecting those of all others on the road.”

In addition to digital messaging on display in rest stops along the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, and in select supermarkets across the state, the campaign includes a digital toolkit of resources available in English and Spanish on the Division’s “Take Control Of Your Destiny” webpage. The resources, including shareable graphics, informational palm cards and a distracted driving fact sheet, are meant to be shared widely across the state to spread the campaign message and promote safer driving habits.

To further commemorate National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, HTS kicked off New Jersey’s participation in the annual “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign, a national distracted driving enforcement effort sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Starting April 1, law enforcement agencies throughout the state joined agencies across the country in a high-visibility enforcement campaign targeting drivers who are texting, talking on handheld cell phones or engaging in similarly risky behaviors that distract their attention from the road. The campaign will run through April 30.

New Jersey is one of only eight states nationwide to qualify for and receive grant funding from NHTSA to combat distracted driving.

To learn more about the Take Control Of Your Destiny campaign, go to the HTS website at www.NJSaferoads.com/destiny.

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