Poll: Is the 2010 Pedestrian Law Making a Difference?
Do New Jersey pedestrians and drivers observe the law in crosswalks?
According to a recent report by NJ.com, the New Jersey state law that requires motorists to stop rather than simply yield to pedestrians in crosswalks has been met with mixed results.
After New Jersey experienced a disproportionate number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, the state enacted the law in 2010 but, according to NJ.com's report, it hasn't been entirely effective. Fatalities are down, but some areas of New Jersey have still had deadly accidents in the crosswalks.
According to Janna Chernetz who focuses on pedestrian safety as a New Jersey advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional transportation policy watchdog group, drivers and pedestrians are both responsible for safety in crosswalks.
But while pedestrians should obey signals and use crosswalks at signalized intersections, drivers are the ones who are hit harder financially when they fail to comply. Motorists failing to stop for pedestrians can be fined $200, plus court costs, and receive two points on their licenses, while pedestrians failing to observe the road rules can be subject to a $54 fine.
The report details how a visit to Newark showed that both drivers and pedestrians are disregarding the law while an observation of traffic in Westfield illustrated that both motorists and walkers are attempting to comply.
"For every impatient driver (in Westfield) who failed to stop for pedestrians, there were nine who halted on cue," the report stated.
Have drivers in Westfield, Scotch Plains and other Union County towns become more observant of crosswalk safety in light recent accidents such as the January 2012 Westfield accident that claimed the life of Scotch Plains resident Patricia Currie? (An accident on Route 22 in Scotch Plains in April also resulted in the death of a pedestrian, but police report that victim "appeared to be distracted" while crossing the highway and that there was no wrongdoing or criminal activity on the part of the driver.)
On Jan. 25, Currie, 68, was killed in the crosswalk at North Avenue and Tuttle Parkway in Westfield after she struck a pedestrian and attempted to assist him by leading him across the roadway. On June 20, Westfield residents Charles Casiere, 84, and John Diaz, 74, were charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto and second degree leaving the scene of an accident, respectively. Initially, both men were charged with driving while intoxicated, failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and reckless driving.
In August 2009, Gina Marotta, 25, of Clark, an employee of Lord & Taylor was struck by a motorist while crossing North Avenue. She suffered a broken arm, broken leg and head injuries. Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said that the police investigation showed that the driver, Leslie Boughner of Westfield, had a blood alcohol content that was higher than the legal limit of .08-percent at the time of the accident.
Several years earlier, a Lord & Taylor employee was killed while using the same crosswalk. At an April 2012 meeting of the Westfield Town Council, the council approved a pedestrian activated HAWK signal to be placed at North Avenue West between Charles and Clark Streets.