Distracted Driving Simulation Urges Motorists to Be More Vigilant on the Road During Holidays

Motor Vehicle Commission Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez illustrated the dangers of distracted driving to shoppers at the Voorhees Town Center today with an interactive demonstration that challenged participants with a video driving simulation with vision impairing goggles, typing a short cell phone text message, and a simulated sobriety test.

“Distracted driving is a year-round problem and every day around this country, more than 15 people are killed and 1,200 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver,” said Chief Martinez. “Factor in the added stresses of the holidays when people have to tackle their holiday ‘to-do’ lists and the season is ripe for tragedy.”

Martinez noted that while those participating in today’s demonstration had fun, the demonstration highlighted the impact of driving while distracted and helped participants understand that distracted driving is a serious issue in the state and across the country. Just this week, a survey published by Phillyburbs.com reported that two out of three respondents admitted they had talked on their cell phones while behind the wheel, and one out of five admitted to texting while driving.

“During the holiday period, we see increased traffic on the state’s roads, which means drivers need to be even more vigilant and pay close attention to the road,” said Acting Director of the NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety Gary Poedubicky. “Any phone conversation, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, is distracting and can instantly take a driver’s eyes and mind off the road.”

Chief Martinez noted that roughly 5,400 Americans die each year in car accidents caused by distracted driving. “Some were trying to eat something between meetings while others were applying makeup before getting to their offices. Some may be channel surfing between radio stations,” said Martinez. “But most of these folks were talking or texting on their cell phones.”

A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that not only do people tend to answer the phone and keep driving, but almost half of the people polled (45 percent) hold the phone in their hand while driving. When asked how they thought their own driving changed when sending text messages, 25 percent of the respondents said the distraction made no difference in their driving yet almost all of the men and women asked (86 percent of the men and 90 percent of the women) said they felt unsafe as a passenger in a car while the driver was sending a text message or email.

In 2010, nearly one in every 100 car drivers was found at any given time to be texting, emailing, surfing the Web or using some sort of hand-held device, NHTSA said. These activities were up 50 percent from the previous year.

“At Voorhees Town Center, we are familiar with how busy and exciting the holiday season can be, so we are proud to help spread awareness of the importance of safe, unimpaired driving, especially at a time when so many people are out on the roads,” said Jessica Saphire, Voorhees Town Center’s marketing director. TLS.

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