Are NJ school zones too dangerous for pedestrians?
School zones in New Jersey are not as safe as you might think, according to a new report from Safe Kids Worldwide. State police statistics show 11 of the 127 pedestrian deaths in the state so far this year were of children 16 and younger.
In fact, New Jersey is on track to keep the same level of pedestrian deaths for the third year in a row. The 127 pedestrian fatalities so far this year compares to 126 at this point in the year 2015, and 126 by late October in 2014. And in 2014, the last year for complete statistics on pedestrian deaths, 26 were killed crossing at marked crosswalks in New Jersey.
Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit organization working to prevent childhood injury, says they are concerned about student behavior in school zones.
"We saw that there was an increase in cell phone use and texting and headphones, mobile devices," she said.
But Carr says drivers are also problematic in school zones.
"With the drivers, we were looking at distraction, we were looking at where they were dropping off their kids — were they actually following a school policy and dropping them off in the clearly-designated zone? We were looking at speeding, and it makes a difference if you are going 15 mph versus 35 mph."
She says everyone needs to take school zone behavior more seriously.
"We know that teens are certainly on cell phones a great deal more. We took a look at that data: 45 percent of teens had cellphones in 2004, compared to 88 percent in 2015. We are really seeing a dramatic [increase] in behaviors that can be a danger when you are crossing the street and you are distracted in some kind of way."
And for those behind the wheel in school zones, Carr says the speed limit should be at no more than 20 mph, and 15 miles is their stronger recommendation. She says there should be clearly marked signs that are visible.
"Sometimes we see signs that get obscured by trees or bushes growing over them."
Here in New Jersey, state Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, has introduced legislation called "Antwan's Law" named after high school sophomore Antwan Timbers, who was struck and killed on Route 130 in May. Part of Allen's bill would ensure speed limits in state school zones remain at 25 mph all day, everyday, not just when school is in session. Another part of the bill calls for a buffer zone before the school zone to give traffic time to slow down.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at Joe.Cutter@townsquaremedia.com