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New Jersey Highway fatalities up from last year

As we are upon Memorial Day weekend, it is good to remember to attend to safety when getting behind the wheel.

According to the Star Ledger report, state police have reported that 230 individuals have died so far this year in Jersey highway accidents, which is almost 18 percent higher than the numbers last year over the same time period.

While the reasons for the increase are not clear, there have been indications that distracted driving may be one of the factors. Distracted driving, as we have noted previously, is of three types, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Visual distractions occur when the driver's eyes are taken off the road. Manual distractions occur when the driver's hands are removed from the wheel. Cognitive distractions, are removing one's mind from the act of driving.

One of the most notorious forms of distracted driving, cell phone use, can involve all three types of distracted driving. If one is texting while driving, all three types are occurring. If one is talking on the phone while driving, there can be both manual and cognitive distraction. Even where a hands-free device is used, conversations can become engrossing and distract drivers from the task at hand. In fact, According to the University of Utah, using a cell phone while driving, even with a hands-free device, has been shown to delay a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at .08 percent, the legal limit.

State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said it is hoped that drivers will heed the new statistics and refrain from texting and talking on cell phones while driving.

Sources said that, on Thursday, police began their "101 Days of Summer" campaign, which is aimed at increasing seat belt use and decreasing drunk driving.

Source: Star Ledger, "N.J. traffic deaths spike in early months of 2011," Associated Press, 26 May 2011.

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