New Law To Improve Pedestrian Safety Takes Effect Tomorrow

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TRENTON—Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer today reminded motorists that effective April 1, they must now stop – and remain stopped—for pedestrians in the crosswalk.  Prior to this legislative change, motorists were required to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

“For years, too many pedestrians have been dying in traffic accidents in New Jersey,” said Dow.  “With these changes to our law, motorists and pedestrians will no longer have to play a game of chicken when it comes to maneuvering on our roadways.  The law brings new clarity that drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians at intersections and crosswalks, and pedestrians, in turn, must use due care and not jaywalk or step into traffic outside of those crossing points.”

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Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer explained that the agency will be working with law enforcement officials to educate both motorists and pedestrians about the change in the law.

“We’re asking law enforcement officials, when interacting with motorists and pedestrians, to educate them about the change to the law, as well their respective duties and responsibilities when walking or driving,” said Fischer. “Our goal is to reinforce the importance of pedestrians always using crosswalks, their safety zone, and for motorists to recognize that when approaching crosswalks they must be alert for pedestrians and stop and stay stopped to allow them to cross safely.

“We recognize that we cannot change everyone’s behavior overnight; this will take sustained effort over a long period of time,” Fischer added.  “However, through education and enforcement, we can change the culture and improve safety for all roadway users.”

To educate motorists about the new law, the division has developed an oversized palm card, similar in size to a traffic ticket, that outlines the changes as well as the penalties for failing to comply.  The card will be distributed to all police departments in the state, and made available to high school driver education teachers and defensive driving program providers.  The new law will also be detailed in the New Jersey Driver Manual.  The public can download it from the division’s web site, at www.njsaferoads.com.

“This new law complements our ongoing effort to enhance pedestrian safety on New Jersey’s busy roadways,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson.  “Since 2006, NJDOT has completed or funded 205 pedestrian safety initiatives, and just a few months ago we adopted a Complete Streets policy that promotes safe accessibility for all who share our roads.”

“Pedestrian safety is a two-way street and it is important that both drivers and those sharing the road take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries and fatalities,” said Motor Vehicle Commission Acting Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez. “Continued improvements to engineering, education and enforcement are the keys to enhancing safety throughout our state.”

Motorists violating the new law face a $200 fine, plus court costs, and 2 points on their license.  They can also be subject to 15 days of community service and insurance surcharges.  Pedestrians may also be cited under state law for failing to use due care when crossing.  The law requires them to obey pedestrian signals and use crosswalks at signalized intersections as well as yield the right of way to traffic if they are not crossing within a crosswalk or at an intersection.  Failure to comply with the law carries a $54 fine, plus court costs.

Fischer noted that since 2004, approximately 150 pedestrians have been killed annually in traffic-related crashes on New Jersey roadways.  In 2009, after a three-year downward trend, the number of pedestrian deaths statewide increased to 157.  As of March 26 of this year, 28 pedestrians have been killed in motor vehicle-related crashes statewide, as compared to 48 for the same time period last year.  Additionally, since 2004, more than 30,000 pedestrians have been injured in motor-vehicle related crashes statewide.

“While the numbers are once again moving in the right direction, even one life lost is one too many,” Fischer said.  “Until we achieve zero fatalities, we must educate both pedestrians and motorists about the importance of remaining alert at all times, and taking personal responsibility for their actions.”

The division offers the following safe walking tips for pedestrians:
•    Wear bright-colored, reflectorized clothing, especially at night.
•    Walk on sidewalks or paths and always cross at the corner, within marked crosswalks if provided.  If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and make eye contact with motorists.

  • Never cross mid-block (unless within a marked crosswalk), between parked cars or by climbing over median barriers.  This is not only unsafe, but against the law.
  • Look left, then right and left again before crossing, and always be on the look-out for turning vehicles.
  • Continue to look for vehicles while crossing, even when in marked crosswalks.
  • Learn the proper use of “walk/don’t walk” signals and obey them.
  • Walk and cross with others, when possible.
  • Do not attempt to cross while talking or texting on a cell phone.  Pedestrian inattention is a common cause of pedestrian-motor vehicle conflicts.
  • Try not to walk at night or in bad weather, such as rain, snow or ice.
  • If you drink alcohol, have someone escort you to your front door.

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