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A new report finds New Jersey ranked the fourth-safest state in the nation on our highways. But a Garden State highway expert says there is still room for improvement.

The report finds we have the fourth-lowest highway fatality rate per 1,000 drivers. Massachusetts and Rhode Island came in first and second, respectively, in overall highway safety. The statistics for the report came from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Cathleen Lewis of AAA/Northeast says our much-maligned traffic jams are actually working in our favor to cut highway deaths.

"That may make us safer because congestion means lower speeds, and so we are not having as many injuries or fatalities."

"I think that we have really great law enforcement campaigns and education campaigns that are making people aware about the dangers of distracted driving, of impaired driving. Making sure that you buckle up. We have some of the highest compliance rates for seat belts."

But Lewis says there's still room for highway safety improvement here.

"We need to do a better job of understanding that distraction is not just about what is on your hands or what you are looking at. It is about where your mind is."

"One of the other places that often is not thought of when you think of traffic fatalities, but is continuing to rise here in New Jersey and across the country, is pedestrian fatalities. More and more people are using walking or biking as a means of transportation, not just recreation, and we need to make sure our roadways are engineered in a way that makes them multimodal so that they are safe for everyone who is using them."

Lewis also says Jersey need to raise awareness about substance abuse and driving.

The most unsafe driving states in the Safewise report were North Dakota, New Mexico and Montana.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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