April is National Distracted Driver Prevention Month and many South Jersey towns have received part of the $1.2 million in state grant money from the Division of Highway Traffic Safety to assist with New Jersey's "U Drive. U Text. U Pay."

43 police departments in South Jersey received funding for saturation patrols during the month-long campaign, including Atlantic County police departments in Absecon, Brigantine, Hamilton, Linwood, Mullica, Northfield, Pleasantville, and Ventor.

Also participating are police departments in Lower, Middle, and North Wildwood in Cape May County and Millville and Vineland in Cumberland County

The campaign, which started in 2019, focuses on what New Jersey law enforcement thinks are the most dangerous distracted driving issues.

For instance, it is illegal to use handheld electronic devices while driving in New Jersey, and violations of the law can result in $200-$400 fines for a first offense, with fines reaching up to $800 for subsequent violations.

Repeat violations of New Jersey's traffic safety laws can also result in the addition of three insurance points, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Last year, the distracted driving crackdown yielded more than 8,000 citations across the state for cell phone use or texting and nearly 4,000 for careless driving. Drivers can also receive tickets for eating or drinking or watching videos, according to the Department of Law & Public Safety.

Distracted driving is a leading cause of crashes in New Jersey, accounting for 49% of all crashes statewide from 2017 to 2021, according to data from the Attorney General's Office.

Nearly 23% of crashes involving a distracted driver resulted in one or more injuries.

“Public safety is my number one priority, and that includes safe passage on New Jersey roadways,” Attorney General Matthew Platkin said in a release.

“Our efforts to reduce distracted driving go hand in hand with the Murphy Administration’s focus on the safety and security of all New Jerseyans. Distracted driving kills – it is that simple. And the initiative announced today couples education with enforcement – educating residents about the dangers of distracted driving and stepping up our enforcement of laws that prohibit it.”

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