New Jersey is one of the most densely populated states in the country, with some of the most traveled commuter roadways between New Jersey and New York, so it is not necessarily surprising that the state was just named the 19th most deadly for pedestrians – but it is certainly disheartening.
SmartGrowth America, a national non-profit agency, recently released their Dangerous by Design report for 2022. The report breaks down pedestrian fatalities across the country and provides detailed data about the statistics, including the number of fatalities per state. In total, there were 870 pedestrian deaths in New Jersey in the five-year period from 2016 to 2020 In order to control for the different population sizes, the report ranks each state by the average number of pedestrian deaths per 100K people per year in the five year period.
The same report says that every single state in the country has gotten significantly more dangerous for pedestrians, and while full 2021 data has not been released, estimates based on what is currently available show that it might be the deadliest year in over 40 years. This data is even more worrisome when taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly reduced the number of vehicles on the road. While the report does mention that more people were taking walks during the pandemic, one would still have expected to see a reduction in pedestrian fatalities alongside the reduction in vehicles on the roads.
Tim Evans, the director of research for New Jersey Future, noted that the larger amount of congestion during a typical pre-pandemic rush hour was actually protecting pedestrians by forcing cars to move more slowly along major highways.
Why is New Jersey so dangerous for pedestrians?
In general, America’s streets are designed for cars, with little to no thought given to the pedestrians who would also be using them. The Dangerous by Design report shows that most of the top 20 most dangerous states are actually in the southern and western parts of the country, where many of the major roadways were built with only convenience and speed for cars in mind. And while New Jersey’s roads may not always be new, they are designed for a major commuter state with a large population density and significant vehicular traffic.
Tim Evans, the director of research for New Jersey Future, points out that the most dangerous roads in New Jersey for pedestrians are usually four or six lane highways in urban areas, typically with a large amount of commercial businesses, but few sidewalks and intersections to allow pedestrians to reach these buildings. Mr. Evans told a New Jersey 101.5 reporter that “having the road designed for high-speed vehicle through-put, but also putting destinations along it where people are likely to be walking, is a dangerous combination.”
This certainly seems to be the case for the most dangerous road for pedestrians in the state – Route 130, which runs north from Salem County to Middlesex County. Janna Chernetz, the New Jersey policy director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, says that Route 130 has ranked the most dangerous road for years and that “pedestrians are expected to be on this road, but infrastructure is not there to support them.” She points out the lack of sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks on a major highway with hundreds of businesses puts pedestrians at risk to cars traveling down the road at high speeds.
Vision Zero – how can NJ achieve zero traffic fatalities?
The dangers to pedestrians in New Jersey are not lost to lawmakers in the state. In 2009, the Complete Streets policy was enacted; the policy “mandates that state-funded transportation improvements must safely accommodate cyclists, pedestrians, mass-transit passengers and those with disabilities that make them mobility impaired.” And while this is a good step forward, the types of changes mentioned in the policy are slow to take effect, and clearly have not been effective in reducing the number of pedestrian fatalities in the last few years.
Some New Jersey lawmakers are hoping to implement Vision Zero, a detailed strategy looking to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries, which has already been enacted in several large cities around the country, as well as in Hoboken and Jersey City. Since introducing Vision Zero, Hoboken has had four years since its last pedestrian fatality, and Jersey City says traffic fatalities are down 40% in 2022 compared to 2021.
Avoiding pedestrian injuries in NJ
Since changing major infrastructure like roadways is a long process, what can be done to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries in the meantime? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that both drivers and pedestrians must do their part in maintaining safe roads. Both parties (the driver and pedestrian) should always obey traffic laws, be aware of their surroundings (especially at night or in other low visibility conditions), be aware of and correctly make use of crosswalks and traffic signals, and avoid alcohol or drug use that could impair judgment and coordination. Pedestrians should always walk on the sidewalk, or as far to the side of the road as possible and use extra care when trying to cross a roadway when an intersection is not available.
Unfortunately, despite hopefully taking precautions, pedestrian-related auto accidents are likely going to keep happening in New Jersey and across the country. If you have been injured as a pedestrian by a vehicle, you may be interested in pursuing legal action against the driver in order to receive financial compensation for medical bills or other losses. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to review your case, investigate the incident, and pursue compensation through the legal system.
Was a loved one killed in a New Jersey pedestrian accident? Did you suffer injuries as a pedestrian in an accident with a motor vehicle? If so, you need the experienced personal injury attorneys at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP, on your side. Call our office at 732-777-0100, or submit our contact form to schedule a consultation today. We serve clients out of our offices in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River.
Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP has purposely remained small in size, because it is important to us that we get to know our clients and their needs. Larger NJ injury firms may churn out case after case, but that’s not how we operate. Partners Barry Eichen, William Crutchlow, and Daryl Zaslow have created a firm with the resources to handle complex litigation, and a team that takes your case personally.
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