Issue 494 March 21, 2005
A new report released last week by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign documented a four percent rise in New Jersey pedestrian deaths in 2004. The report, Still at Risk: Pedestrian Safety in New Jersey looks at preliminary data from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety as well as data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find that a total of 153 New Jersey pedestrians were killed in traffic collisions in 2004, up from 147 in 2003.
With pedestrians comprising more than 1 in 5 traffic deaths, New Jersey is the third deadliest state for walkers by that measure, behind New York and Hawaii. Still at Risk finds that pedestrian deaths have held steady at about 150 per year over the past ten years, 1995 to 2004. This despite efforts to make New Jersey a state where "residents and visitors are able to conveniently walk and bicycle with confidence and a sense of security in every community."
New Jersey counties with the most pedestrian deaths in 2004 were in the denser areas of north Jersey. In terms of the percentage of total traffic deaths that were pedestrians, counties in both north Jersey and along the Jersey shore ranked at the top. Southern Jersey counties ranked near the top of the list in terms of pedestrian fatalities per capita.
Unfortunately, New Jersey’s ambitious goals to make the state more walkable and bikeable haven’t been embraced everywhere in the state. Some local officials continue to blame the victims for pedestrian deaths. "It’s not so much the engineering, but the individuals who are making the wrong decisions when they’re crossing these major arteries," Atlantic County Office of Highway Safety Director Michael Schurman told the Press of Atlantic City. An odd statement given that major arteries are notoriously dangerous for pedestrian precisely because they’ve been engineered to move as many cars as possible as fast as possible.
Despite the funding crunch, New Jersey needs to do more to protect pedestrians. Still at Risk recommends that New Jersey increase bicycle and pedestrian funding via the Transportation Trust Fund, create a dedicated funding source for the state’s "Safe Streets to School" program, identify and improve the most dangerous roads and streets for pedestrians, encourage the implementation of traffic calming to make walking safer, and fully fund the Transportation Enhancements program.
NJ DOT Commissioner Jack Lettiere concurred with these recommendations in the Bergen Record, telling the paper, "I wish we could double or triple the [school pedestrian safety] program, because we get an enormous number of requests, and unfortunately you just run out of money. The pot’s got to get bigger."
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