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Pedestrian Safety is a two-way street

Pedestrians are the second largest category of motor vehicle deaths and injuries in New Jersey. Children and older people are often victims of traffic accidents.

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System reported 4,784 total pedestrian deaths. New Jersey had 171 pedestrian deaths in 2006. Unfortunately, many of the measures that make roads safer for motorists, such as large medians and wide shoulders, make those roads more treacherous for pedestrians. Vehicle-pedestrian collisions have a five percent fatality rate if the car is going 20 mph, but the rate jumps to 85 percent at 40 mph.

Pedestrian activity is at its greatest in densely developed areas, such as cities and town centers, but it also is significant in neighborhoods and along and across suburban roadways. Motorists should take special precautions to watch for pedestrians.
In most cases, pedestrians have the right-of-way at all intersections. There is a crosswalk at every intersection, even if it is not painted as such. This is known as an “unmarked crosswalk.”

Motorists are prohibited from blocking the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or stop sign. A motorist must not stop with a portion of his/her vehicle in the crosswalk area. When a motorist blocks a crosswalk, it forces pedestrians to go around a vehicle, putting them in danger.

A motorist must stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian who is crossing at a crosswalk (marked or unmarked) until the pedestrian completes his/her crossing, unless traveling along the half of the roadway on the other side of a safety island from the pedestrian. Motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians or who overtake and pass vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians are subject to a $100 fine and up to 15 days in jail (N.J.S.A. 39:4-36).

Never pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk (N.J.S.A. 39:4-36). This frequently causes severe injury or death to pedestrians, especially if the passing vehicle is traveling at a high speed. When stopping for a crosswalk on a multi-lane road, a motorist should stop about 30 feet before a crosswalk to avoid blocking visibility of a motorist in the second lane.

Motorists should watch for signs that mark special hazard areas, such as school zones, bus stops, playgrounds, parks and schools, where children are most likely to play or cross the streets. Children chasing a ball, for instance, give no thought to traffic. Small children are hard to see. Always watch for movement around parked vehicles.

Motorists should drive cautiously along roadways with on-street parking, as pedestrians may appear from between parked vehicles. Motorists traveling at lower speeds will have a greater ability to stop the vehicle and avoid potential conflicts with pedestrians.

Pedestrians and joggers should walk or jog off the roadway when sidewalks are available and face traffic. They should cross at crosswalks only on the proper signal, look all ways before crossing, avoid crossing between parked vehicles, and at night, wear light-colored or reflective clothes and carry a white handkerchief or a light. It is not a good practice to wear headphones while walking or jogging near the roadway.

At night, motorists should watch for anyone walking along a highway and exercise due caution. None of the above absolves motorists from their duty to be extra vigilant in watching for pedestrians on the roadway.

Always yield to pedestrians. Be extra careful at intersections, particularly when making an allowed right turn on red. Motorists are required to yield to pedestrians who have the right-of-way within a crosswalk and to those who are crossing at an intersection. Be alert for pedestrians when making turns and entering and exiting driveways, parking lots and alleys.