BEACH HAVEN – With the summer season come lots of crowds, activities, and events outdoors. While the sun is out, people might take to walking along the boulevard or heading to popular tourist destinations, such as Fantasy Island, with family and friends.
While we may be nearing the end of the summer season, local township officials and police departments continue to urge pedestrian safety and safe driving practices at all times, especially in heavy traffic areas.
On July 25, members of the Beach Haven Borough Council, Beach Haven Police Department, and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) held a press conference to kick start the Street Smart NJ pedestrian safety campaign in Beach Haven and other shore towns.
The campaign is “aimed at saving lives, preventing injuries, and helping the state of New Jersey reach its goal of eliminating pedestrian fatalities, because after all, zero deaths is really the only acceptable number there is,” said David Behrend, Director of Communications & Government Affairs for the NJTPA.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the pedestrian fatality rate in NJ is nearly double the national average, with 824 pedestrians killed statewide between 2013 and 2017. In this time, pedestrian deaths made up nearly 29 percent of all crash-related deaths. These statistics ranked New Jersey 16th in the nation for pedestrian fatalities in 2016.
Zenobia Fields, Director of Planning for the NJTPA, stated that these statistics can be narrowed down to show one death every two days in New Jersey.
The campaign boasts not only hopes to keep pedestrians safe, but also change those behaviors in motorists that can cause pedestrian fatalities, like distracted driving.
Another major slogan for the Street Smart NJ campaign is “heads up, phones down,” something local police departments have been preaching for years.
Members from the Surf City, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach, and Beach Haven Police Departments were present at the press conference to show their support of the campaign, which they all take part in.
Council President S. James White noted that in the summer months, “we go from 1,000 people to maybe some 20,000 people, just in Beach Haven.”
With the influx of people, police have a big task of patrolling the tourist areas where pedestrian numbers spike during the summer months. White explained that, while the council tries to remain tourist-minded for the benefit of the Beach Haven area, they know it is impossible to make the streets inaccessible just to protect pedestrians.
The Street Smart NJ signage tells pedestrians to “Check Your Vitals”:
- Cross at corners, intersections, and marked crosswalks
- Look both directions before crossing
- Use pedestrian buttons and only cross when “Walk” signal shows
- Use sidewalks or walk facing traffic where there are no sidewalks
- Be wary of motorists making a right on red
- Be visible at night
- Walk sober
- Eliminate distractions.
According to White, Street Smart’s signage will be posted on local buildings to keep pedestrians and motorists aware of their surroundings.
Beach Haven Police Chief James Markoski also demonstrated that street safety is always significant, sharing the tragic tale of a local Beach Haven resident who was hit by a distracted driver, while crossing in an unmarked area in 1995.
“I can’t help but think if she was in a pedestrian crosswalk and if the driver hadn’t been distracted, that one of our local families would not have had suffered this tragic loss,” said Markoski.
Capt. Tom Medel provided these tips for drivers:
- Drivers should always stop for pedestrians
- Look for pedestrians before turning
- Obey the speed limit
- Do not block or park in crosswalks
- Eliminate distractions (no talking, texting)
Sgt. Lisa Schmied advised bicyclists:
- Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs and signals
- Look for pedestrians before turning
- Ride with vehicle traffic or use bicycle lanes where assigned
- No riding on the sidewalks
- Wear a helmet
- Eliminate distractions
Officers plan to reward positive behaviors, such as using crosswalks and wearing a helmet, as part of the program. Beach Haven officers will distribute coupons for free 7-11 Slurpees to pedestrians and bicyclists who are seen obeying traffic laws.
Fields stated that the implementation of this program in other areas of the state has already yielded great results.
“We’re looking for transportation investment, and what better transportation improvement then one that saves lives,” said Fields. “We’re actually seeing a difference.”
NJTPA reports that the program has seen a 40 percent reduction in drivers failing to stop for pedestrians and a 28 percent reduction in pedestrians crossing in marked areas as opposed to mid-block.
The Street Smart NJ program has made its way to over 70 communities like Long Beach Island, including Avon-by-the-Sea, Bay Head, Belmar, Long Branch, Manasquan, Point Pleasant Beach, and Toms River, among many others.
For more information on the program, visit bestreetsmartnj.org.