A comprehensive new report finds pedestrian fatalities are shooting higher in New Jersey and across the nation.

According to data compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association there were 179 pedestrian fatalities in the Garden State in 2020, and 220 last year, an increase of almost 23%.

Wendy Berk, the director of the New Jersey Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Coalition said the trend is disturbing but not surprising.

Focus on driving

She said in order to make the Garden State safer for pedestrians, “what really needs to happen is a shared commitment to safety on the roadway, drivers need to put down the distractions in their car.”

She said this can include fiddling around with a cell phone while driving but also “cognitive distractions that are happening from conversation from passengers, from other activities that are going on in the car.”

She stressed people may be good multi-taskers but “driving takes 100% of attention.”

Dan Callas, the president of Avenues in Motion, said to lower pedestrian fatalities we also need to convince drivers traveling at higher rates to slow down.

Stop speeding

Callas said “drivers driving at slower speeds are going to be able to react better and avoid crashes. The faster a driver is going, the greater the impact at the time of the crash, so that’ll result in more severe outcomes.”

Car crash in urban street with black car
kadmy, Getty Stock / ThinkStock
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He noted if a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle traveling at 23 miles per hour there’s a 90% they will survive, but if a vehicle is traveling at 58 miles per hour the chance of survival is 10%.

“Speed has a huge impact on overall crash results, and if we’re able to manage our speeds better we’ll be able to have safer interactions on the roadways,” he said.

Stay aware

Berk pointed out another contributing factor is “we see an increase in pedestrians with headphones on, pedestrians being distracted.”

She stressed pedestrians must also stay aware and alert when they are anywhere near a street or crossing a roadway.

 

Across the United States drivers struck and killed an estimated 7,485 people on foot last year, the most pedestrian deaths in a single year in 4 decades.

The report also finds between 2010 and 2020 nationwide, pedestrian deaths increased by a shocking 54%, while all other motor vehicle deaths increased by 13%

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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