LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP – It is unfortunate, but it happens on a daily basis. Car crashes, pedestrians struck by cars, fatalities. Both pedestrians and drivers are at risk when someone gets behind the wheel.
In order to reduce this risk and increase safety on our Jersey Shore roadways, local law enforcement agencies are working to instill “street smart” values in township residents.
The Street Smart NJ pedestrian safety campaign kicked off outside of the Long Beach Township Police Department. A cloudless sky and summer heat brought out tons of beachgoers traveling along Long Beach Boulevard on foot and in vehicles, accenting the event’s purpose.
“Pedestrian safety is a top priority every day, but it’s especially important during the summer months when we have thousands of people visiting our shore communities,” said Freeholder John P. Kelly, who sits on the NJ Transportation Planning Authority Board of Trustees. “We’re committed to making our streets safer but we need everyone’s help. If you keep safety in mind when you’re driving and walking, we can make a difference and reduce crashes.”
In New Jersey, pedestrian safety proves a major concern. According to (NJTPA), “the federal government has designated [New Jersey] a pedestrian safety focus state for its high rate of fatalities and injuries.”
Of the total number of individuals killed in crashes in New Jersey in 2017, nearly one third were pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA counts that number as 183 pedestrian fatalities out of a total 624 total fatalities.
This figure is nearly double the national average of 16 percent, ranking New Jersey as 13th in the nation in pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people.
Think of it this way: one pedestrian is killed every two days in New Jersey.
Developed in 2013 by NJTPA, Street Smart NJ is an annual campaign that partners with local police departments throughout the Jersey Shore to promote pedestrian safety during the busy summer beach season. Long Beach Township was one of the NJTPA’s first law enforcement partners.
Since its inception, the program has grown to incorporate nearly 100 local communities including Beach Haven, Harvey Cedars, Ship Bottom, Surf City, Asbury Park, and Point Pleasant Beach, among others.
On June 26, officials from Ocean County, NJTPA, Long Beach Township Police, and traffic safety organizations came together to commemorate the kick-off of their 2019 season.
“These campaigns make a difference by reminding everyone to follow the laws and be safe,” said Megan Keller, Long Beach Township Police Officer. “Drivers need to slow down, focus on the road and stop for people crossing. And people who are out walking should use crosswalks or cross at corners, wait for the signal and also avoid distractions.”
And Keller is right – these campaigns really do make a difference. Analysis performed on campaigns conducted in 2018 and 2019 found Street Smart NJ contributed to:
- A 60 percent reduction in drivers failing to stop before turning right at a red signal or stop sign
- A 40 percent reduction in turning vehicles failing to stop for people crossing
- A 45 percent reduction in drivers running a red light or stop sign
- A 21 percent reduction in people crossing against the signal or outside of a crosswalk.
One of the event’s speakers was Andy Anderson of the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition. Anderson connected the purpose of the Street Smart NJ campaign to reality with a tragic story.
“On Saturday, my wife and I received a phone call from our youngest daughter and she was in tears…[she] lives and works here every summer in the LBI area and she told us that one of her best friends was struck and killed while jogging in Delaware, where she was attending college,” said Anderson. “She had just turned 23 years old and she was supposed to have plans with my daughter on Sunday.
“In that moment it reminded me that none of us…is immune from this.”
Anderson echoed Freeholder Kelly and Officer Keller’s statements, adding that we are the only ones who can make a difference in these tragic statistics; he doesn’t believe in calling them “accidents,” either.
“It’s not an accident, it’s a crash or a collision and ask yourself…was there anything that someone in this collision could’ve done to avoid it?” he added.
Samantha Rodolico, driver’s education teacher at Burlington City High School, provided another perspective of how safety awareness can save lives.
“Three years ago Antione Timbers, who was a junior at Burlington City High School, was out at night right across from our high school [on Route 130] when he was struck and killed by a speeding vehicle,” she explained. After this tragic loss, the students and staff knew they wanted to make a change.
Using the slogan “25 Saves Lives,” and with the help of the Brain Injury Alliance of NJ, they were able to petition to decrease the speed limit on that road from 50 mph to 25 mph, to reduce the risk of crashes. This is now known as Antione’s Law.
During the Street Smart NJ campaign, officers will be working to enforce pedestrian laws as well as educate motorists and pedestrians about the steps they can take to avoid a tragedy or injury on the roadway.
Just as Anderson pointed out, this campaign is meant to remind us of the role we play in making our streets safer. Stay alert, put down your phones, keep your heads up, use crosswalks, obey speed limits and signals, and stop for pedestrians.
For more information, or to become involved in the Street Smart NJ campaign, visit bestreetsmartnj.org