New Jersey Needs to Face Its Pedestrian Fatality Problem

The other day, a woman on foot was killed by a someone driving a car in New Jersey. Sadly, that isn’t terribly unusual. What made this death more "newsworthy" — elevating it briefly to the CNN headline stack yesterday — was the fact that Alexis Cohen, the woman who was left on the side of the road by a hit-and-run driver, had auditioned for American Idol.

But as the blog of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia points out, Alexis Cohen was one of many, including Casey Feldman, another young woman hit in another Jersey beach town just a week earlier: 

398103105_7f23b59b12.jpgWhy is New Jersey’s pedestrian fatality rate so high? And what can they do about it? Photo by iirraa via Flickr.

To date [in 2009] more than 90 pedestrians have been killed on NJ roads, accounting for a nation-leading 30 percent of all traffic fatalities, almost
three times the national average. Googling NJ Pedestrian enforcement
indicates that law enforcement has responded in some places with ticketing blitzes. However, interviews with various government officials indicate that no one is quite sure how to effectively deal with the problem, with one official speculating that the economy was responsible for the increase.

Let’s
end the speculation and put together the facts. The stakeholders in New Jersey need to put their collective minds together to analyze and solve
the problem at hand:

  • Using police reports analyze a large sample of recent fatal pedestrian crashes with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT). PBCAT is a software application designed to assist state and local pedestrian and bicycle coordinators, planners, and engineers in addressing pedestrian and bicyclist crash problems.
  • Compile the actual investigative follow-up from the crashes — were charges filed, were other countermeasures recommended or implemented?
  • Condense the results into a report that breaks out the most common factors, outcomes and recommended countermeasures.
  • Convene a pedestrian safety summit with NJ DOT, Traffic Safety, law enforcement, elected officals, pedestrian safety experts and transportation planners all at the table.
  • The summit would then generate a list of recommendations and goals for the state and local governments to implement.
  • Follow up with an evaluation of the process. Did the recommendations actually contribute to reducing pedestrian deaths?

These are worthy recommendations, it seems to us. But the headlines are already moving on. Will New Jersey officials have the motivation, or the political will, to deal with the problem? 

More from the network: Maybe GM should focus on its bike division if it wants to be viable for the future, says Boot ‘n’ Scoot. Tucson Bike Lawyer laments the hate-filled nature of online bike vs. pedestrian discourse. And Boston Biker has two open letters: One to the driver who swerved across three lanes of traffic to cut him off, and one to the cop who thought it wasn’t a problem.

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