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Police In N.J. Begin Distracted Driving Crackdown

From Now Until April 21 Expect To See More Officers And Much Stiffer Penalties
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FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Police in 60 Garden State communities have launched a three-week crackdown on distracted drivers.

As part of a national campaign dubbed “UDrive, UText, UPay,” police departments are tapping into a special federal grant that will allow them to fund overtime for officers completely dedicated to targeting and ticketing distracted drivers.

“Officers are going to be doing a hundred hours of this special detail: distracted drivers with cellphones,” Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi said. “Nothing else.”

In Englewood Cliffs, a police dashboard camera video caught a woman chatting and driving for more than a mile, seemingly oblivious to the officer using lights, sirens and even a megaphone to pull her over, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.

“It’s very dangerous,” said Officer Michael Perry. “I mean your eyes are off the road.”

Another driver, Sisco Carrero, got caught on Route 46, Brown reported. Even as Officer Perry was writing his ticket, Carrero said he supports the crackdown.

“It’s always a lot of accidents that happen because of it, with people not paying attention,” he said. “I happen to be an attentive person, I never get into accidents or anything.”

Officer Perry pulled over driver after driving for using a cellphone while behind the wheel.

“People will come up with any excuse not to get that ticket,” Officer Perry said.

While weeks-long crackdowns are typically reserved for serious infractions like driving while intoxicated and seat belt violations, police point to frightening statistics that show distracted driving is responsible for killing on average one New Jersey motorist every two days.

Police are  hoping this effort turns that trend around.

Beginning July 1, fines jump from $100 to anywhere between $200 and $400 for talking or texting and those fines increase with subsequent convictions.

April is National Distracted Driving Month. The distracted driving campaign runs through April 21.

Police told Brown a common misconception is that you can hold your speaker phone and still be legal. It is illegal to use your phone in your hand at all while driving.

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