Preliminary figures released by the New Jersey State Police reveal both good news and bad news concerning traffic safety in New Jersey. The figures show that overall fatal car accidents declined slightly in the state last year, according to NJ Advance Media.
That decrease is being attributed to increased enforcement and greater awareness about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. However, while the streets and highways appear safer, the threat posed by distracted drivers in particular remains serious.
Fewer traffic fatalities
The preliminary figures show that in 2015 there were 541 fatalities caused by 501 traffic accidents on state, county, and municipal roads. Those figures represent a slight decrease from the 556 deaths and 523 accidents that were recorded in 2014. The 2015 figures are also about the same as those from 2013, when 542 people died in 508 crashes in New Jersey. Authorities are cautioning that because the 2015 figures are preliminary, it will take until spring before the true number of traffic fatalities from last year is known. Police also caution that a one-year decrease does not represent a trend and that statistics can “ebb and flow” from year to year.
The decrease, however, is certainly encouraging. Police say that increased enforcement, particularly along the I-95 corridor, has helped encourage safer driving. Increased patrols along I-95 saw police cracking down on unsafe commercial vehicles, people not wearing a seat belt, and drivers using their cellphones.
Distracted drivers persist
The problem of distracted driving is a particularly interesting one in New Jersey. As NJTV reports, far fewer tickets were issued to drivers for using their cellphones in 2015 compared to the year before. In 2014, for example, police cited a total of 87,821 drivers for using their cellphones while driving. By October of 2015, however, police had issued just 54,711 such citations, which meant they were on track to issue approximately 10,000 fewer such citations overall last year.
Of course, fewer citations could be a result of New Jersey drivers simply taking distracted driving more seriously. However, one explanation for the decrease is less encouraging. Drivers may simply be using hands-free devices more often, which are technically legal, but, as a recent study showed, still dangerously distracting. The AAA study showed that drivers who talk using a hands-free device are still distracted for close to 30 seconds after their call ends.
While a decrease in traffic fatalities is certainly good news, it is important to keep in mind that dangerous drivers still plague New Jersey’s roads. A driver who is impaired, distracted, or simply reckless can cause a serious accident that can leave families devastated. A personal injury attorney can fight for the best interests of accident victims, including by helping them pursue compensation for their ordeal.