$950 ‘crash tax’? Report grades NJ’s traffic safety laws
Safety on New Jersey's roads would improve if the state introduced speed cameras and added restrictions for young drivers, among other moves, according to a report released Tuesday by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
Like dozens of other states, New Jersey earned a "caution" ranking in the group's 2023 Roadmap to Safety, for not having a number of the group's recommended laws on its books.
The report cited the nearly 43,000 lives claimed by motor vehicle crashes in 2021 across the nation, a 10.5% increase over the previous year. According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the annual economic cost of motor vehicle crashes is $314 billion.
"This amounts to a crash tax of nearly $950 for every person living in the U.S.," said Cathy Chase, Advocates president. "This horrific toll must serve as a blaring wake-up call to policymakers at all levels of government, to take action and reverse this upward trajectory."
Nearly 700 fatalities were recorded on New Jersey's roads in 2021, compared to 587 in 2020, according to New Jersey State Police data.
As of Tuesday morning, 648 people had lost their lives on New Jersey's roads in 2022.
For the first time in 20 years, Advocates included automated speed cameras as a recommended way to keep drivers safe. In the report, New Jersey lost points for the fact that speed cameras are prohibited in the state. Close to half of the states in the U.S. permit automated enforcement, and 19 use it, according to the report.
New Jersey, along with nearly every state, is cited in the report for permitting pre-teens to sit in the front seat. The group is pushing for states to pass laws that keep minors in the back through age 12.
The Garden State is also lacking certain provisions for young and novice drivers, such as nighttime and passenger restrictions, according to the report.
In the report, New Jersey gets credit for allowing front seat belt use to be a reason that someone is pulled over, but it's faulted for not allowing the same for backseat passengers.
New Jersey scored well across the board in the category of impaired driving. The state has laws on the books that prohibit open containers of alcohol in a vehicle and mandate ignition interlock devices on the vehicles of all convicted drunk driving offenders.
In addition, texting or even reading a message while driving is prohibited in the state, and New Jersey requires that children be placed in booster seats, after outgrowing their safety seat, until they can properly use the vehicle's seat belt in a rear seat.