The recent announcement by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign that pedestrian fatalities among senior citizens continue to rise demonstrates that New Jersey’s “Crosswalk Law” is not being enforced.
In addition to seniors, the fatality rate is particularly high for bicyclists and public road workers. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign would like New Jersey to increase the penalties for motorists who kill pedestrians, highway workers, and policeman.
New Jersey actually passed such a law with penalties in recent years. Public Law 2009 was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Jon Corzine on Jan. 18, 2010, and went into effect on April 1, 2010. The law requires motorists to come to a complete stop at a crosswalk when a pedestrian is crossing a street and to remain stopped until the pedestrian safely reaches the opposite sidewalk. Previous legislation only required motorists to yield to pedestrians, but twenty-eight pedestrian deaths the previous year prompted the Legislature to act.
The fatality rate seems to be associated with urban areas of New Jersey with greater population densities. Hudson, Essex, Camden, Passaic and Bergen Counties appear to have the greatest fatality rates, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign report. Interestingly, those most likely to be victims of pedestrian accidents are the elderly, physically infirm, and economically deprived citizens who cannot afford automobiles. The working poor who reside in inner-city areas and walk to a job site are especially vulnerable.
As our population ages, and more people suffer from medical conditions that will hamper or slow their gait, walking to a store, post office, job site or doctor’s office becomes a hazardous activity. These pedestrians, including people with disabilities, become prey to overzealous drivers who are rushing to keep appointments. The crosswalk law was created because of an alarming rate of pedestrian fatalities. Yet, the fatality rate has not lessened. Obviously, no law is effective unless it is enforced.
Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a disability policy specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law.