Committee review could reduce pedestrian deaths

One of New Jersey’s most dangerous roads is finally getting the attention it deserves.

For five consecutive years, Route 130 has been named the most dangerous road for pedestrians by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit pedestrian advocacy group.

That most recent title was bestowed based on the nine pedestrian deaths that occurred on the section of the state highway in Burlington County between 2011 and 2013.

Four pedestrians have died in Burlington County this year.

Those numbers are unacceptable.

In the past, we have used this space to petition state and local officials to take action to prevent more deaths.

To their credit, there has been some. In recent years, local authorities have stepped up enforcement in some high-risk areas, and in Trenton, legislation sponsored by local lawmakers Troy Singleton and Herb Conaway in the Assembly was approved by the Assembly in May. Sen. Diane Allen sponsored one in her chamber. The bills would boost the fines for motorists and jaywalkers, and the funds would be used for highway safety education and improvements on problem roads.

Good stuff, all.

And this week, another piece of legislation co-sponsored by Allen cleared a Senate panel. It would establish an 18-member Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Committee to review the causes of pedestrian and bicycle accidents and recommend possible improvements.

The committee also would be asked to identify infrastructure and road design issues that contribute to these types of accidents, as well as review driver education and training programs and existing motor vehicle laws.

What’s happening on Route 130 mirrors a trend in the rest of the state. Statewide, the percentage of pedestrian fatalities is higher than the national rate. Pedestrians accounted for 24 percent of all traffic deaths in New Jersey in 2013.

While high-profile enforcement and stiffer fines have proved to serve as some deterrent, they’re not going to solve the problem. Further study is needed to establish why these deaths occur, and it can’t hurt to have someone take a fresh look at the issue.

It could be what it takes to save lives.


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