N.J. cracks down on drivers' cell-phone use

Police officers in 18 New Jersey towns wrote more than 4,000 tickets last month during a two-week crackdown on drivers talking on their cell phones, authorities announced yesterday.

The enforcement effort, which was from March 2 to 15, was implemented in Gloucester County's Washington Township and Pitman Borough, Ocean City in Cape May County, and three municipalities in Atlantic County. Towns in Bergen, Mercer, Morris, and Union Counties also participated.

The program was launched a day after the one-year anniversary of New Jersey's elevation to a primary offense any talking or texting on handheld communication devices while behind the wheel. Authorities issued about 120,000 tickets in the first 12 months.

Grants of $4,000 to each of the municipalities' police departments paid for officers to stake out high-traffic areas.

According to the Attorney General's Office, 4,075 tickets for cell-phone use were issued during the period. Officers handed out 185 speeding tickets and 387 summonses for failure to use seat belts. They also issued 27 drunken-driving citations and made 32 drug-related arrests.

In March, 14,464 cell-phone tickets were issued statewide, authorities said.