New Jersey bicyclists and pedestrians are in constant danger as they try to share the road safely with automobiles. Many drivers are indifferent to people walking or riding their bicycles. They speed, drive while distracted or are reckless. Since riders and pedestrians are so vulnerable, a collision can cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities. With the statistics showing a spike in these types of crashes, a law designed to enhance safety went into effect.
Safe Passing Law hopes to improve safety and reduce accidents
The Safe Passing Law went into effect on March 1. It requires drivers who are passing pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders or those on a motorized vehicle to change lanes so they are not next to them. The lane change is only required on roads where it is safe and legal to do so. If it is a single-lane road, for example, the driver must maintain a safe distance of at least 4 feet away. In cases where even that is impossible or unsafe, then the driver must limit the vehicle speed to 25 mph. Citations will be issued to violators. It will be $100 for simply failing to adhere to the law. If there is an accident and the person is injured, it is $500 and two points are assessed on the driver’s license.
The catalyst for these fundamental changes was a rise in auto accidents and fatalities. New Jersey driver fatalities rose to 372 from 289 from 2019 to 2021. Pedestrian deaths rose to 223 from 179. Twenty-three bicyclists lost their lives. That was an increase from 12. In total, 703 people were killed in auto accidents in 2021; 2020 had 587; and 2019 had 558. Children and teens were especially vulnerable. In 2021, six child pedestrians died in accidents; two died in bicycle crashes; and in total, 30 people younger than 18 lost their lives in 2021.
The new law might help, but accidents are still likely to occur
Although this is a well-meaning law that may improve the safety landscape and lower the number of injuries and deaths, it is important to remember that many drivers simply flout the law. Vigilance is still imperative to maintain safety. When there is an accident, many problems can come up even if the person survives. There may be enormous medical costs, the need for professional care and a radically different life than what was envisioned or enjoyed prior to the auto accident. A fatality exacerbates these challenges. The incident must be investigated to determine its cause and move forward. Having experienced advice is key to know what steps to take.