If you are not paying attention while you are driving, someone may be watching you.

A first of its kind study from Rowan University is providing a unique look at driver distractions.

Led by associate professor Dr. Mohammad Jalayer at the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, students drove more than 14,500 miles of New Jersey's most dangerous roads watching drivers and logging distractions.

As many as a quarter of all drivers observed were doing something other than paying attention to the road.

"Sometimes when people know they are getting tracked or monitored, they are cautious and they don't get distracted,” said Ahmed Sajid Hasan, a Rowan civil engineering doctoral student who co-authored the study. “In this data collection approach, you are getting exactly what is happening on the road.”

What they found was a myriad of distractions that kept drivers attention away from the road, even when traveling at high speeds.

The most common distractions: cell phone, fidgeting, personal grooming, eating or drinking, talking to a passenger, reaching for the radio or another object in the car, receiving a call, or being drowsy.

For this initial research, they focused on 10 highways that reported the highest number of crashes: US 1, US 9, US 130, I-80, US 22, the Garden State Parkway, I-295, I-95, NJ 18 and NJ 55.

Their conclusions have already been forwarded to New Jersey highway traffic safety officials.

Among the conclusions:

  • An increase in speed limit significantly increased distractions
  • An increase in the number of lanes on a road significantly decreased the distraction events
  • An increase in median width significantly decreased distractions
  • An increase in shoulder width significantly increased distractions.

With 25% of all fatal crashes blamed on distracted driving in New Jersey, the research could help the Department of Transportation create a safer driving environment.

The next phase of research, now in progress, will increase data collection to include more New Jersey roads during different seasons.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is providing funding for the ongoing study.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

Every NJ city and town's municipal tax bill, ranked

A little less than 30 cents of every $1 in property taxes charged in New Jersey support municipal services provided by cities, towns, townships, boroughs and villages. Statewide, the average municipal-only tax bill in 2021 was $2,725, but that varied widely from more than $13,000 in Tavistock to nothing in three townships. In addition to $9.22 billion in municipal purpose taxes, special taxing districts that in some places provide municipal services such as fire protection, garbage collection or economic development levied $323.8 million in 2021.

School aid for all New Jersey districts for 2022-23

The state Department of Education announced district-level school aid figures for the 2022-23 school year on Thursday, March 10, 2022. They're listed below, alphabetically by county. For additional details from the NJDOE, including specific categories of aid, click here.

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