Stepping toward safety

Since 2009, 16 pedestrians have died on Burlington County’s stretch of Route 130, and for each of the last five years, it has been named New Jersey’s most dangerous road for pedestrians by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Slight improvements have been made over the years, including adding crossing guards, signage and reducing speed limits near school zones, but little action has been taken to enhance safety along the length of Route 130 for those on foot.

But there has been positive movement of late.

Assemblymen Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, and Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delanco, introduced a package of bills to the Legislature last week that would increase the fines for drivers who seriously injure or kill walkers or bicyclists, as well as motorists or pedestrians caught violating crosswalk laws, and dedicate the additional money to pedestrian safety enforcement and education efforts.

We support their efforts to make the roadway safer.

While it’s not yet clear how the increased fines would be distributed to improve specific highways, increasing fines should make drivers think twice before accelerating. Speeding vehicles and careless driving have long been a problem on Route 130, and having violators, both drivers and walkers, pay more was one of the recommendations made by the Tri-State Campaign.

One of Conaway and Singleton’s bills would divert 10 percent of the fines collected from all traffic violations across the state into an existing New Jersey Department of Transportation fund that helps pay for road and sidewalk improvements for pedestrians and cyclists near schools. That bill would give preference to projects involving highways that have a history of pedestrian deaths, which would include Route 130.

There also is a positive development at the county level. Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield is seeking $250,000 in grants from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety to help pay for officer overtime for extra enforcement along the roadway as well as for defensive driving, crossing guard and bike and pedestrian training programs in towns that abut the highway.

Making Route 130 safer for pedestrians won’t be easy — there has to be a balance between accommodating pedestrians and keeping the road safe for its primary users: motor vehicle drivers.

But improvements must be made, and we’re pleased that Singleton and Conaway have taken up the cause.

Original Article