As fatal crashes continue to climb in New Jersey, Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Highway Traffic Safety (HTS) today announced the start of New Jersey’s annual “Click it or Ticket” enforcement mobilization targeting drivers and passengers who don’t buckle up. This year, a record 145 law enforcement agencies have received HTS grants totaling more than $890,000 to help pay for enforcement initiatives during the two-week campaign.
Beginning today, state, county, and local police departments throughout New Jersey will join law enforcement agencies across the country in carrying out the national enforcement mobilization targeting unbuckled drivers and passengers. The campaign will run through June 5.
The launch of the enforcement campaign comes as New Jersey –along with states across the nation– experience alarming rises in fatal crashes and traffic deaths. Data tracked by the New Jersey State Police shows that 2021 was the deadliest on New Jersey roadways in more than a decade, and this year is shaping up to be even worse for fatal crashes and highway deaths.
“Wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to prevent death and serious injury in a car crash,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “Educating the public on the importance of buckling up is critical to our ongoing efforts to reverse the alarming uptick in fatal crashes and prevent the senseless loss of lives on New Jersey roadways.”
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021 – the most since 2005 and an average of 117 deaths every day. Crash deaths rose by 10.5% in 2021 compared to the year before, making it the largest annual percentage increase in the nearly five-decade history of NHTSA’ Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
In New Jersey, the numbers paint an equally grim picture. Fatal crashes in the Garden State climbed to 672 last year – 21% higher than the year before – and the number of lives lost in those crashes rose nearly 20% to 702. Taken together, the number of crashes and deaths are the highest recorded in New Jersey since 2007. Preliminary year-to-date data show that crashes and fatalities are up more than 15% from May 22, 2021, putting the state on track for another sharp increase by year’s end.
As part of the State’s ongoing efforts to reverse this troubling trend, HTS made an additional 10% in grant funding available to bolster statewide participation in the 2022 Click It or Ticket campaign. The increase in funding was made possible through additional federal highway safety funding states received to combat the rise in traffic fatalities. This year, a record 145 New Jersey law enforcement agencies have received grants to help pay for increased road patrols, seat belt checkpoints, and other enforcement initiatives during the Click It or Ticket campaign. All police departments in New Jersey are invited to support the campaign, whether they receive grant funding or not.
“The instant you buckle up, you cut your risk of a fatal injury in a crash nearly in half. Yet preliminary data shows that 38 percent of all motor vehicle occupants killed in crashes last year were not wearing their seatbelts – the vast majority of them drivers. That has to change,” said Eric Heitmann, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “Our law enforcement officers see firsthand the consequences of not buckling up. Click It or Ticket is their chance to motivate people to buckle up before it’s too late. If you aren’t wearing your seatbelt during this enforcement campaign, expect to be pulled over and ticketed.”
Across the campaign, participating law enforcement agencies will be taking a “no-excuses” approach to seat belt enforcement, writing citations throughout the day and with a particular focus on nighttime enforcement. In New Jersey, the maximum penalty for a seat belt violation is $46.
Last year, law enforcement agencies participating in the Click It or Ticket campaign issued 9,755 seatbelt citations statewide, wrote 3,936 speeding tickets, and made 555 impaired driving arrests.
This year, HTS will spend more than $20 million on programs and initiatives to enhance traffic safety and improve driver behaviors, including law enforcement training, public outreach and education, and grant funding for statewide mobilizations to enforce laws on impaired driving, distracted driving, and seatbelt usage.
Those initiatives include:
January 2022 launch of a multi-media campaign aimed at raising awareness of the risks associated with driving impaired. Historically, over 25% of fatal crashes in New Jersey involve someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
April 2022 launch of statewide multimedia campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, which is the leading cause of ALL crashes, as well as traffic fatalities in NJ. Also in April, HTS released findings of a 2021 study commissioned by HTS and conducted by Rowan University that provides insight into distracted driver behavior and identifies key factors that contribute to it. The findings will be used to develop strategies for addressing and mitigating distracted driving through enforcement and education.
Since a significant number of NJ’s traffic fatalities are pedestrians, HTS is continuing to partner with the NJDOT, local traffic management associations, planning organizations, and advocacy groups to implement pedestrian safety programs, as well as placing sustained, year-long, pedestrian safety enforcement and education grants in our municipalities.