Pedestrian safety has become a pressing issue in New Jersey, as the number of pedestrian fatalities continues to escalate. Despite a decrease in commuting, 2021 marked a high point for roadway fatalities in 16 years, with New Jersey roads claiming 699 lives, as reported by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Alarmingly, pedestrian fatalities made up approximately 30% of these deaths.
This surge in pedestrian accidents is concerning, especially since it continues unabated into 2022, reflecting a trend of danger on New Jersey’s roads. It is important to understand the factors causing these fatalities, so they can be adequately addressed.
An environment not designed for pedestrians
Pedestrian fatalities stem largely from street designs that favor high-speed automobiles, often leaving pedestrians and cyclists vulnerable. Conditions posing significant risks include areas without sidewalks, crosswalks or adequate lighting, especially in certain parts of New Jersey. These hazards become even more pronounced in lower-income neighborhoods where large arterial roads built for high speeds exist, increasing the danger for pedestrians.
The peril of “stroads”
In New Jersey, you encounter a common dangerous roadway known as the “stroad,” a term coined to express a blend of a street and a road. This type of roadway often lacks sidewalks and crosswalks, making it particularly risky for pedestrians and multi-modal transit users.
The need for safe street redesign
The increasing attention to street safety emphasizes the need for safer street redesigns and embracing vision zero principles. State leaders have introduced bills aiming to establish a Vision Zero Task Force, whose focus would be to enhance traffic safety for all road users and reduce traffic fatalities to zero.
The role of “vehicle miles traveled”
Alongside the redesigning efforts, evaluating “Vehicle Miles Traveled” could provide crucial insights into land use patterns and help reduce car trips overall, thus mitigating congestion and fatalities.
The escalating trend of pedestrian fatalities in New Jersey is a multifaceted problem that demands immediate action. There is a dire need to redesign New Jersey streets with safety as the central focus while prioritizing the needs of all road users over high-speed traffic.