Local police departments will receive $5,000 for participating in the first-ever statewide initiative to stop drivers from using their cellphones while in the car.

The crackdown, which began Tuesday and runs through April 21, will rely on funding from the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety to pay for increased patrols and checkpoints, according to a news release from the state Attorney General's Office.

Sixty police departments will receive $5,000 each, and many more agencies are expected to participate in the new program, called “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

Local police departments receiving funding include Absecon, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Mullica Township, Ocean City, Somers Point and Bridgeton.

The $300,000 state campaign is part of a nationwide effort developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and will coincide with nationally recognized Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The national enforcement blitz also is supported by an $8.5 million national advertising campaign.

It is illegal in New Jersey to drive a motor vehicle while using a handheld electronic device. Currently, motorists violating the state’s primary cellphone law face a $100 fine plus court costs and fees.

However, on July 1, those penalties will rise to a range of $200 to $400 for a first offense and could increase to $800 for subsequent violations.

Contact Steve Hughes:

609-272-7090

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