A new New Jersey state law goes into effect Thursday that mandates that motorists must stop — and remain stopped — for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
In the past, motorists were required only to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.
State Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer are traveling the state Thursday to remind New Jerseyans of the change.
"For years, too many pedestrians have been dying in traffic accidents in New Jersey," Dow said. "With these changes to our law, motorists and pedestrians will no longer have to play a game of chicken when it comes to maneuvering on our roadways. The law brings new clarity that drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians at intersections and crosswalks, and pedestrians, in turn, must use due care and not jaywalk or step into traffic outside of those crossing points."
Motorists who violate the law face a $200 fine, plus court costs, and 2 points on their license. They can also be subject to 15 days of community service and insurance surcharges.
Pedestrians may also be cited under state law for failing to use due care when crossing. The law requires them to obey pedestrian signals and use crosswalks at signalized intersections as well as yield the right of way to traffic if they are not crossing within a crosswalk or at an intersection. Failure to comply with the law carries a $54 fine, plus court costs.
Fischer noted that since 2004, approximately 150 pedestrians have been killed annually in traffic-related accidents in New Jersey. Last year, after a three-year downward trend, the number of pedestrian deaths statewide increased to 157.
As of Friday, 28 pedestrians have been killed as compared to 48 for the same time period last year. Additionally, since 2004, more than 30,000 pedestrians have been injured in motor-vehicle related crashes statewide.
To educate people about the new law, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety has developed an oversized palm card, similar in size to a traffic ticket, that outlines the changes as well as the penalties for failing to comply. The card will be distributed to all police departments in the state, and made available to high school driver education teachers and defensive driving program providers. The new law will also be detailed in the New Jersey Driver Manual.
Fischer said her agency will be working with police to educate both motorists and pedestrians about the change in the law.
"We're asking law enforcement officials, when interacting with motorists and pedestrians, to educate them about the change to the law, as well their respective duties and responsibilities when walking or driving," Fischer said. "Our goal is to reinforce the importance of pedestrians always using crosswalks, their safety zone, and for motorists to recognize that when approaching crosswalks they must be alert for pedestrians and stop and stay stopped to allow them to cross safely.''
"This new law complements our ongoing effort to enhance pedestrian safety on New Jersey's busy roadways," said state Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson. "Since 2006, NJDOT has completed or funded 205 pedestrian safety initiatives, and just a few months ago we adopted a Complete Streets policy that promotes safe accessibility for all who share our roads."
Fischer offers these safe walking tips for pedestrians:
- Wear bright-colored, reflectorized clothing, especially at night.
- Walk on sidewalks or paths and always cross at the corner, within marked crosswalks if provided. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and make eye contact with motorists.
- Never cross mid-block, between parked cars or by climbing over median barriers. This is against the law.
- Look left, then right and left again before crossing, and always be on the look-out for turning vehicles.
- Continue to look for vehicles while crossing, even when in marked crosswalks.
- Learn the proper use of "walk/don't walk" signals and obey them.
- Walk and cross with others, when possible.
- Do not attempt to cross while talking or texting on a cell phone. Pedestrian inattention is a common cause of pedestrian-motor vehicle conflicts.
- Try not to walk at night or in bad weather, such as rain, snow or ice.