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The New Jersey Legislature Becomes One Tough Crossing-Guard

After three years of debate, New Jersey legislators have finally passed and signed a bill into law which expressly addresses the pedestrian fatality problem which has recently plagued the state. In 2009, pedestrian fatalities were the only category of traffic-related deaths to experience an increase. Pedestrian deaths rose despite a four year long decline in overall traffic-related fatalities. On New Jersey roadways, only drivers experienced more fatalities than pedestrians, whose deaths accounted for 27 percent of roadway fatalities.

The New Jersey legislature has attacked the problem with new legislation and in granting money to municipalities so they may better enforce pedestrian-related laws. While the effectiveness of these measures has yet to be determined, New Jersey’s proactive approach to the problem is a promising step in the quest to reduce the frequency of pedestrian fatalities.

The New Legislation

As an acknowledgement to the fact that 42 percent of 2008 pedestrian fatalities occurred in areas prohibited to pedestrians, the new legislation is aimed at holding both drivers and pedestrians themselves accountable for safe transportation practices.

Previously, the penalty in New Jersey for jaywalking was $100. The new law doubles that fine to $200. Though the new law repealed the possibility of jail time for jaywalkers, judges may now impose a sentence of 15 days of community service for violators. In addition, pedestrians are now expressly banned from leaving “a curb or other place of safety” by moving “into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield or stop.” By imposing stricter penalties and restrictions on pedestrians themselves, the law highlights that not every pedestrian accident is the fault of the person behind the wheel.

However, the new law focuses primarily on those negligent or reckless drivers who do cause pedestrian accidents. Instead of being merely required to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, the new law requires drivers to stop completely as soon as pedestrians enter a crosswalk. This measure is aimed to reduce the frequency with which motorists rush through intersections, often at the peril of cyclists and pedestrians. Drivers are not only required to stop, but they must also remain stopped until the pedestrian has left the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.

The new law increases the penalties for failure to yield to pedestrians. Motorists will face $200 traffic tickets, a four point violation on their driving record, and the possibility of a 15 day community service sentence if they violate the new law. A separate law recently enacted, increases the maximum fine for injuring a pedestrian from $100 to $500.

In addition, law enforcement hope that the new measure will make it much easier to identify fault in pedestrian accidents under the new law. The legislation specifies that if a pedestrian is struck down while walking in a crosswalk, “there shall be a permissive inference that the driver did not exercise due care for the safety of the pedestrian.”

Enforcing the Law at the Local Level

In 2006, the Assembly’s Transportation Committee concluded that pedestrians, especially children and the elderly, are increasingly vulnerable when walking due to the prevalence of speeding and congested roadways. This conclusion was recently supported by the finding that New Jersey pedestrians suffered 157 in 2009. These findings contributed to the recent approval of grant money for many New Jersey municipalities by the state’s Division of Highway and Traffic Safety.

In cities like Newark, thousands of dollars have been awarded to local law enforcement so that they might educate the public and more effectively enforce the law. Some of the measures being taken include targeting especially dangerous intersections, road safety checkpoints, radar enforcement and cracking down on pedestrian-related violations.

For Further Reference

The recently enacted New Jersey law creates rights and responsibilities in both drivers and pedestrians, which can be confusing. If you or someone you can about has been injured in an accident involving a pedestrian, please contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys for a free consultation.

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