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Public Information Office: (609)882-2000
Lt. Al Della Fave  X6514
SFC Kevin Rehmann  X6515
Sgt. Gerald Lewis   X6516
Tpr. Stephen Jones   X6513

May 27, 2004

New Jersey State Police & Division of Highway Traffic Safety Are Looking for "Heroes" During Memorial Day Weekend

West Trenton, N.J. - State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes, Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Roberto Rodriguez, and New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jack F. Lettiere, Jr. today announced the continuation of the partnership uniting the Division of Highway Traffic Safety with state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies to render New Jersey's roadways safe. The partnership includes a new element with its participation in the "Hero Campaign". All three agencies are touting safety and responsibility as the most effective ways to avoid accidents and fatalities on New Jersey's highways.

"Memorial Day is the traditional commencement of the busy summer driving season," Superintendent Fuentes said. "Once again, State Troopers and police officers statewide will be working diligently providing traffic safety advice and reminders to motorists, boaters and vacationers as they utilize our highways and waterways. Our goal is to prevent accidents and save lives. Our ultimate objective is a fatality-free Memorial Day weekend, but we can only realize this objective with the public's assistance and cooperation."

State Police and local law enforcement agencies will show their support for the "Hero Campaign" by adorning police vehicles with decals and bumper stickers publicizing the campaign. The family of Navy Ensign John Elliott launched the "Hero Campaign" in August of 2000 in memory of John's tragic death at the hands of a drunken driver.

The purpose of the campaign is to encourage motorists to participate in designated driving programs throughout our state and nation. The campaign encompasses law enforcement agencies, schools, businesses, and other community-based organizations to help keep drunk drivers off our highways.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority will display placards and signs supporting the campaign and reminding drivers of the consequences of drinking and getting behind the wheel. Pamphlets and other safety literature will be distributed at service areas along the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

During the "101 Critical Driving Days of Summer" period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, motorists will observe an increased State Police presence on all New Jersey highways as Troopers place special emphasis on traffic related patrol activities: drinking and driving patrols and enforcement of the 65 mph speed limit. The stepped-up enforcement will be in effect in all State Police patrol areas, including the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Atlantic City Expressway, and all interstate highways. Not lost in our enforcement and safety efforts is the need to assist stranded and disabled motorists.

The statewide and national "Click It or Ticket" campaign began Monday, May 24 and will continue through June 6. The focus of the state "Click It or Ticket" campaign is enhancing New Jersey's seatbelt usage rate, which currently stands at 81-percent. In 66 percent of New Jersey traffic fatalities the victim is unrestrained by safety belts.

"The Memorial Day weekend is the centerpiece of our statewide 'Click It or Ticket' seat belt enforcement mobilization," said Roberto Rodriguez, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. "We know that seat belts save lives and reduce injuries so it will be zero tolerance this weekend for unbelted motorists. Those who do not buckle up will get a ticket."

The 2004 Memorial Day holiday officially begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 28 and continues through midnight, Monday, May 31. During the 2003 Memorial Day holiday, 7 persons lost their lives on New Jersey roadways.

The State Police noted that 224 people have died in traffic-related accidents so far this year (Jan. 1 through May 27, 2004) compared to 260 highway deaths recorded during the same period last year (2003)-- a 13.8 percent decrease in traffic fatalities over the same period last year. Superintendent Fuentes hopes that the public will do their part to continue the downward trend of the state traffic fatality rate.

"We want people to celebrate and enjoy the holiday, but we're asking drivers, passengers and travelers to actively participate in highway safety by practicing safe driving habits," said Fuentes.

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