Mike Kellenyi says he still cries every day. One year ago his 18-year-old daughter Nikki was killed in a car accident in Washington Township, Gloucester County. While the crash remains under investigation, Kellenyi says he’s convinced a cell phone and distracted driving played a role. It’s because of his loss that he now supports a new program aimed at preventing texting while driving in several South Jersey communities.
“If you can save one life out of all this you’ve saved another person from going through the tragedy that I’m going through,” he said.
The campaign officially kicked off today in several South Jersey towns in Cape May, Atlantic Cumberland and Salem Counties.
Under the program, anyone caught using their cell phone while driving will be issued a warning. They will then have 15 days to go online and watch a 10-minute video from AT&T called “The Last Text.” After watching the video, the person will then have to answer questions about what they saw. Anyone who doesn’t comply could face a fine.
“It’s an education program,” said Chief Chad Callahan of the Ocean City Police Department. “We’re not out here to hammer the public. We’re a resort town.”
While the program is new to South Jersey, it was inspired by a similar program that began in Somerset County last April. During that campaign, police handed out around 3,000 warnings and more than 99% of the drivers who received them complied with the requirements.
The program will run in the South Jersey communities until September.
Despite being among the drivers who were pulled over on Monday, Jeffrey Price of Cape May Court House had nothing but good things to say about the campaign.
“I think it’s a good program because texting does distract you from driving,” said Price. “I’d rather watch a video than pay a ticket.”