Don’t say you weren’t warned: Should you not come to a full stop when a pedestrian crosses in front of you, you not only face a $200 ticket. It’s two points off your license.
The stats don’t lie: As many as 25 percent of traffic deaths in New Jersey the past five years have involved pedestrians — the highest rate in the country and TWICE the national average.
Last year, the figure statewide jumped by 20, to nearly 160.“This is simply too high,” said Attorney General Paula Dow.
“It’s not enough simply to slow down or hope the pedestrian stops for the vehicle,” she said.
State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes has been trying to get lawmakers in Trenton to listen, and they have. Distraction clearly is taking its toll in the nation’s most congested state, whether it’s people talking or texting on cellphones, constantly checking their GPS devices or fiddling with satellite radio.
Most of the victims are middle-aged people who tend to be physically active. But New Jersey also has countless miles of roads without sidewalks, literally forcing pedestrians into the street.
Beyond that, many of us can provide anecdotal evidence:
You still see plenty of drivers holding cellphones, texting or taking rights on red without stopping. Larger vehicles, including SUVs take turns tightly, their bodies actually crossing the pavement where people are standing.
We also see pedestrians talking or texting on a cell, head down, as they head into or through crosswalks — or, even worse, in the middle of the block.
The progress of faster digital communication clearly has come at a price. With more on our minds, we tend to fall into thoughts of the past or expectations for the future, instead of crossing at the green, not in-between, or at least looking both ways.
After he took office, Gov. Jon Corzine in 2006 launched a pedestrian safety initiative that, he said, would focus on enforcement, education and engineering by cracking down on motorists and pedestrian violations.
To help stem the tide, some towns have used decoy programs, in which cops pose as pedestrians and ticket drivers who fail to yield in crosswalks. The Department of Transportation has done its part, with new sidewalks, crosswalks and pedestrian crossing — including countdown signals — throughout the state.
Time to crack the whip.
Beware, though: It isn’t just motorists who’ll be held to account. Pedestrians can be fined $54 for not obeying traffic signals.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.