This month, as police officers and advocates nationwide aim to spread awareness about distracted driving, New Jersey is in the midst of an annual three-week police crackdown, while Pennsylvania is reporting a 5 percent drop in tickets for distracted driving for 2018.
The states have responded differently to the dangerous habit blamed for thousands of deaths and injuries each year: The Garden State’s anti-texting blitz netted 28,000 cell-phone-using drivers in April 2017 and 2018 — which is triple the number of total distracted-driving citations written in Pennsylvania in those entire two years.
“Actions such as talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device and texting while driving substantially increase one’s probability of being involved in a crash,” said New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan.
Distracted driving caused 3,000 deaths in 2017, according to the most recent federal data, and was cited as a factor in tens of thousands of crashes. Sixteen states and D.C. have banned handheld phone use, including New Jersey. Almost all states have no-texting laws for all drivers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Pennsylvania bans only texting and wearing headphones while driving. PennDot and local and state police launched a six-week aggressive driving blitz last month that includes — but isn’t specifically for — distracted driving.