Now that the stay-at-home order has been lifted and businesses are slowly reopening in New Jersey, more people will be taking to the roads and trying to get back to some sort of normal life.

But with an increase in cars on the roads, comes more of an opportunity for accidents.

New research from The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found drivers who have been in at least one crash in the past two years are significantly more likely to engage in risky behaviors like speeding or texting, even when they think the police may catch them.

The foundation's annual Traffic Safety Culture Index reported that drivers perceive distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous, yet many admitted to engaging in at least one of these behaviors anyway in the 30 days before survey.

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AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Tracy Noble said what's even more alarming is that the latest statistics show 50% of those involved recent crashes admit to talking on hand-held devices while driving in the past month, vs. 42% not involved in a crash.

The survey also found 43% of those involved in a recent crash admit to texting while driving in the past month, vs. 27% not involved in a crash. And 39% of those involved in a recent crash admit to running a red light in the past month, vs. 30% not involved in a crash.

Noble said these behaviors go against logic.

"If you have a crash as the result of a behavior, you would be less likely to mimic that behavior, but here we have people who have been crashes and still admitting to bad driving behavior," she said.

Noble said she believes it goes to show that people are always distracted behind the wheel, and need to be stricter about eliminating distractions.

People are used to always having access to their phones, and that doesn't change while driving, she said.

Of all the dangerous driving tasks, there were two that were noted as extremely or very dangerous: 96% of drivers polled said driving while typing or sending a text message or an email was an extremely or very dangerous behavior. The same percentage recognized driving while very tired to be very or extremely dangerous as well.

Yet, these same drivers text behind the wheel even when they know there's a risk, Noble said.

It's not all bad news, though. Compared to the 2018 version of the study, drivers report they're engaging less frequently in dangerous behaviors. Drivers who said they talk on hand-held phones while driving dropped from 52 to 43 percent during that time.

Drowsy driving and texting both fell 3 percentage points from 2018 to 2020.

Noble urged drivers to put their phones in their glove boxes or back seats to avoid the temptation to use them. She also suggested using features to block incoming texts temporarility. And she said if a driver absolutely has to answer a text, pull over or have a passenger take care of it.

Noble said AAA is also asking drivers to slow down. A driver does not save much time when he or she speeds. She said a driver would have to travel 100 miles to save roughly five minutes, moving at 75 miles per hour instead of 70 miles per hour.

Also: Stop driving if you become sleepy. Fatigue impacts reaction time, judgment and vision. Pull off the road to a safe area and take a break.

Last but not least, Noble said only drive sober. She said that's not only about alcohol and marijuana, but prescription medicines that can impair vision or concentration.

Of course, always wear a seat belt. It's the law and it saves lives.

New Jersey State Police statistics show that there have been 200 crashes on Jersey roadways to date so far in 2020, including 217 fatalities. In 2019, there were 525 accidents to date with 559 fatalities at this time of year, but fewer people are on the road because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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