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Project Type
UTRC Research Initiative
Project Dates
01/01/2012 - 01/31/2013
Principal Investigators
Project Status

With the amount of wireless communication technology available today, its use while driving has become a significant issue around the country as it relates to crashes, injuries and deaths on the nation’s roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported over 6000 deaths and over 500,000 injuries in 2008 attributed to distracted driving1.

Distracted driving has been defined as any non-driving activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the safe operation of their vehicles.2 Three types of driver distraction have been identified: visual, manual, and cognitive, with talking and texting emerging as the most significant forms of distracted driving.

The USDOT is making considerable efforts to encourage states’ to enact legislation to ban use of devices while driving as well as efforts to educate the public on the dangers of this type of activity. As of September 2010, 8 states and the District of Columbia have banned hand-held cell phone use for all drivers and 30 states have banned texting for all drivers3. The USDOT has provided some early support to states with sample legislation, pilot programs for high-visibility enforcement efforts, and a Distracted Driving Information Clearinghouse.

Since March 1, 2008 there has been a ban on the use of wireless telephone and electronic communication devices while operating a motor vehicle in New Jersey. But from general observation on any roadway, it appears that there are still a significant amount of drivers who are talking on their phones or texting while driving. From 2006 to 2009, NJ crashes, injuries, and deaths for hand-held devices averaged 1837, 769, and 6, respectively, while hands-free averaged 1570 crashes, 659 injuries, and 3 deaths.4 It is generally believed that the number of crashes attributable to phone or text use is under-reported as drivers will rarely admit to their use and enforcement normally does not witness the crash event. Additionally, law enforcement resources may be limited and issuing citations for phone or text use may be competing with other enforcement priorities.

While legislation has been enacted to combat this type of behavior, actually enforcing it and reporting it present some challenges. The efforts for this research proposal are aimed at pre- and post legislation data analysis on actual crash and citation information as well as understanding the challenges posed with the collection of this type of information. A key component as well is surveying driver attitudes toward this legislation and gaining an understanding of the components for compliance and in this case non-compliance.

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