Bill boosting fines for pedestrian safety violations clears Assembly panel

TRENTON — Legislation to raise fines for pedestrian safety violations to pay for road improvements, enforcement and education programs is another step closer to becoming law.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to release the measure and send it to the full Assembly for a floor vote.

The bill is sponsored by 7th District Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton. It seeks to increase the fines for traffic violations involving pedestrians at intersections from the current range of $54 to $200 up to a uniform $250, and dedicate a large share of the proceeds to safety improvements.

Under the bill, $150 of each fine would be dedicated to a pedestrian safety and education fund, and $50 would be reserved for safety improvements or initiatives along so-called “high-priority roadways,” defined as roads where four or more pedestrian fatalities have occurred in the previous calendar year or more than eight in the last three years.

Among the highways that could qualify is Route 130. Four pedestrians were killed on the highway last year, despite a state-funded crackdown on speeding and other illegal-driving behaviors by the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department and officers from all 12 municipal police forces along the corridor.

The bill also would make changes to give judges more discretion to impose community service, jail time or license suspensions for motorists who injure walkers or bicyclists.

Increasing the penalties for careless drivers who injure or kill pedestrians and other so-called “vulnerable users” has been recommended by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit group that advocates for transportation improvements in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

The group puts out an annual report naming the three states’ most dangerous road for walkers based on pedestrian death tolls. Route 130 has been named New Jersey’s deadliest for four consecutive years.

Conaway and Singleton introduced the bill in May 2013. Prior to the Appropriations Committee, the bill was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee last June.

The Assembly speaker can now post the bill for a vote by the full chamber as early as March 9.

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