New, Strict Yield-to-Pedestrians Law in N.J.


yield-to-pedestriansDrivers in New Jersey are now required to come to a complete stop when approaching a pedestrian in a crosswalk under a law that went into effect last week.

The statute, taking effect four years into a statewide campaign to cut down on accidents, represents the first pedestrian-related change in New Jersey traffic law in five decades.

“No longer will crossing the street be a game of chicken,” Pam Fischer, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety director, said Wednesday at a news conference in Cherry Hill. “Motorists who fail to abide by the law will get hit in the pocketbook.”

New Jersey has one of the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities in the country, with 27 percent of auto fatalities in 2008 involving pedestrians, almost twice the national rate, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The law applies to both marked and unmarked crosswalks, which the state traffic code designates as existing at the intersection of any two roadways. It calls for violators to be assessed up to $200 fine and two points on their driver’s licenses, as well as 15 days of community service.

But even with the new law – which revised a requirement that motorists yield to pedestrians in crosswalks – getting drivers to comply could be difficult, said Sgt. Mike Rann of the Cherry Hill Police Department.

Last year, Cherry Hill police set up crosswalk stings, in which officers, in some cases pushing baby strollers, would step out into a crosswalk as cars approached. Over six days, officers handed out 249 tickets and arrested one man who became irate when cited by police, Rann said.

“People would just drive right around the carriage,” he said. “It’s a matter of handing out more tickets. It gets the word out, and people start to comply.”

Many motorists lack awareness when it comes to pedestrians and their legal right of way in a crosswalk, said Ranjit Walia, a senior research specialist at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers.

“A lot of these crosswalks aren’t well marked, and that’s another issue,” he said. “New Jersey is not pedestrian-friendly. There are certain communities that have done a good job, but a lot of our nation is very auto-centric. We haven’t really made a major push to say we ought to be respectful of pedestrians.”

New Jersey follows federal regulations on signs alerting motorist to crosswalks. But some communities have taken further steps, including Princeton, where running lights have been installed along crosswalks to improve their visibility, said Fischer.

“Europe is way ahead of us on traffic safety,” she said. “We’re taking a lot of our cues from them.”

Appearing at Wednesday’s news conference were Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson, parents of a 21-year-old Fordham University student killed by a motorist while walking through a crosswalk on her way to a summer waitressing job in Ocean City, N.J., last year.

Feldman urged motorists to place a photograph of a loved one in their cars as a reminder of the potential consequences of talking on a cell phone or reaching for a cold drink, as the motorist who struck his daughter, Casey Feldman, had been doing.

“Think about if you were the driver who took someone else’s child,” Feldman said.

{ Newscenter}


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    And before anyone jumps in to say it, I am NOT a “self-hating” Jew, but rather a Jew who is aware of – and observes – the rule of dina demalchusa dina.