TRENTON – Police agencies throughout New Jersey will be participating this summer in a pedestrian safety enforcement and education program designed to increase awareness about safely sharing the road, Division of Highway Traffic Safety (HTS) Director Pam Fischer announced Thursday.
Known as “Cops in Crosswalks,” the federally-funded initiative places undercover police officers, posing as pedestrians, in marked crosswalks. Motorists who fail to stop for the undercover officers are stopped and issued warnings or tickets by uniformed officers a short distance away. The Division will be providing federal grants of $8,000 each to 13 police departments for the program, which will run from mid-July to mid-September. In addition, towns receiving year-long pedestrian safety grants from the Division will also participate in this initiative, which has been run in towns throughout the state for the past two years.
Fischer noted that the initiative will also help to reinforce New Jersey’s pedestrian safety law, which was amended on April 1, to require motorists to stop and stay stopped for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Prior to the change, motorists were required to yield.
“By changing the language in the state’s 50-year old pedestrian statute from yield to stop, motorists now know that when they approach a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk, they must stop and remain stopped to allow that pedestrian to cross safely,” Fischer stated. “The law also makes it unlawful for a vehicle to overtake or pass another vehicle that is stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross. It also infers that a motorist is at fault when there is a conflict between a vehicle and a pedestrian in a crosswalk.”
Pedestrians must also do their part under the amended law. “It’s a pedestrian’s responsibility to take due care when crossing the street,” she said. “That means that a pedestrian should never suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the roadway, where it is impossible for a motorist to stop. Pedestrians must also obey all traffic signs and signals, including ‘walk/don’t walk.’ If a pedestrian does enter the roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or at an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, he or she must yield the right of way to all motor vehicles.”
Motorists violating the 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 failing to comply with the law face a $54 fine, plus court costs.
According to a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll on driver attitudes and behaviors, nearly 95 percent of New Jersey drivers know that state law requires them to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.
As part of the Division’s ongoing effort to educate the public about the amended law, an oversized palm card (similar in size to a traffic ticket) that outlines the changes, has been distributed to police departments. The card will be given to motorists and pedestrians as part of the effort. This information has also been made available to high school driver education teachers and defensive driving program providers and will be detailed in the New Jersey Driver Manual to ensure that all novice and experienced drivers are educated about the law change.
In addition, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety is partnering with Downtown NJ, a statewide organization that works with elected officials, local businesses and community organizations to promote municipal downtown areas, to reinforce the pedestrian safety message in town centers.
“Pedestrian safety is an utmost concern to our members in Downtown NJ. Shopping districts, large and small, suburban and urban, rely on people to shop, dine, live and work there,” said Kathleen Miller Prunty, President, Downtown NJ and Downtown Director, Cranford. “We are pleased that an emphasis is on people and not just vehicles. Many of our member communities have been proactive in making downtowns more pedestrian friendly. Downtown NJ is committed to working with the Division of Highway Traffic Safety to spread the word that keeping pedestrians safe is good business.”
“Foot track is vital to our downtowns, so we want to ensure that pedestrians travel safely while they’re patronizing local businesses,” Fischer said. “That not only means that motorists must slow down and observe the posted speed limit in our downtowns, but pedestrians should always use marked crosswalks. To help reinforce the crosswalk message, we have developed a decal that local businesses and municipalities can prominently display in their windows and storefronts, as well as on sign posts, benches, garbage cans, and even stencil on sidewalks.”
Fischer noted that since 2004, approximately 150 pedestrians have been killed and 6,000 injured annually in traffic-related crashes on New Jersey roadways. The percentage of pedestrians killed annually in New Jersey, between 20 and 25 percent, is double the national rate. In 2009, after a three-year downward trend, the number of pedestrian deaths statewide increased to 157. As of July 12 of this year, 70 pedestrians have been killed in motor vehicle-related crashes statewide, as compared to 84 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 return to a downward trend is positive, our goal has been and will remain, zero fatalities,” Fischer said. “Initiatives such as the one unveiled today can go a long way in helping us achieve our goal. Until then, we will continue to educate both pedestrians and motorists about the importance of always taking personal responsibility for their actions. Everyone using our transportation system, regardless of their mode of travel, shares the responsibility for ensuring their own safety.”
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!