In April, a new state law took effect requiring drivers in New Jersey to come to a complete stop when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk. Prior to the change, vehicles were only required to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks as opposed to completely stopping.
The law is named "Casey's Law" after Casey Feldman, who was killed in 2009 while crossing an Ocean City intersection. The goal of the new law is to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths, which spiked last year after three years of decline. The Star-Ledger reports that since 2004, an average of nearly 150 pedestrians died each year in traffic accidents, reaching a high of 159 in 2009. The Office of the Attorney General notes that motorists who violate the law face a $200 fine, two points on their driver's license and up to 15 days of community service.
Supporters of the law point to a drop in pedestrian accident deaths as evidence that the law is working. According to the Associated Press, the number of pedestrian fatalities from January to September is down 19 percent from the same time last year, dropping from 115 to 93.
Young and Elderly Most At-Risk
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 4,300 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in the United States in 2008. The number represents a 16 percent drop from 1998 levels. The young and the elderly, however, are most at risk. In 2008, pedestrians ages 65 and older accounted for 18 percent of all pedestrian deaths, while those ages 15 and under accounted for over 7 percent of all fatalities.
Data from the NHTSA indicates that the afternoon and evening hours are the most deadly. For those pedestrians ages 14 and under, 43 percent of fatal accidents happened between 4:00 p.m. and 7:59 p.m., with 21 percent happening between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. The weekend is also an especially dangerous time, with 48 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occurring on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.