Each summer, the warm weather causes a surge in the number of pedestrians and bicyclists taking to the streets of New Jersey. In addition, the Garden State’s beach towns and coastal resorts draw in crowds of tourists to further crowd the state’s roads. Unfortunately, though, an increase in bike and pedestrian traffic usually coincides with an increase in motor-vehicle accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians.
New Jersey has an annual average pedestrian fatality rate of 1.8 deaths per 100,000 people. In 2009, pedestrian fatalities accounted for nearly 27 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities, which is the highest percentage of any state. In contrast, New Jersey’s annual average bicyclist fatality rate is 1.49 deaths per million people. In 2009, 13 cyclists were killed in New Jersey, accounting for 2.2 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities.
One coastal New Jersey police department has developed a program to raise awareness of pedestrian safety among drivers and to remind them of their responsibilities when they see a pedestrian enter the street. According to Toms River Patch news, the Pedestrian Decoy Program uses a “decoy” undercover officer to cross streets at clearly marked crosswalks. Police officers then identify, stop and educate drivers who violate New Jersey’s pedestrian laws.
In addition to this pedestrian safety awareness program, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has proposed to double the amount of funding committed to similar programs throughout the state, increasing available funding from $2 million to $4 million in 2012. Hopefully through increased resources and focused efforts to raise drivers’ awareness of pedestrians and bicyclists, everyone can share New Jersey’s roads safely.