PUBLIC SAFETY: We have literally reached a crossroads in our evolution when we must learn not only defensive driving but also “defensive walking,” due to the number of pedestrian crashes and deaths.
Pedestrian fatalities have spiked sharply nationwide since 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
And consider: Seven of eight people who died in traffic accidents last Thanksgiving in New Jersey were pedestrians.
It could simply be a function of the economy that more people are hoofing it instead of driving or taking the bus. Or it could be that the suburbs, of which New Jersey sure has plenty, have become more crowded.
Absent any cold, hard statistics, experts say chances are better that the culprits are portable toys and … well, an inability to walk and do anything else at the same time.
Despite all our advances in technology, they’ve yet to invent a phone that sounds a screeching alarm when an oncoming vehicle puts a target on your back.
New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes urges people to “adopt a ‘defensive walking’ mindset similar to defensive driving.”
So instead of taking things for granted when you hit the road, consider ways of not hitting the pavement:
• Be particularly wary of nearby moving vehicles. You don’t know what could happen, and you should be ready in case something does;
• Consider how some people drive — while texting, having a phone conversation, fiddling with the stereo — or drunk. Assuming that ANY driver will see you is taking a huge risk;
• Don’t get lost in a song, a phone conversation or deep thought. Know what’s going on around you. That includes HEARING as well as seeing (Think of it this way: You could get mugged);
• Cross at crosswalks and permitted areas only. Why increase the already existing risk?
• That said, don’t assume traffic will stop because you entered a crosswalk. This is New Jersey, remember.
• Chuckle if you will, but drunk walking is extremely dangerous. Many people have been crushed after losing their balance and falling into the path of a moving vehicle — some while crossing railroad tracks. Get a ride, sleep over — or don’t drink too much.
• One other thing: Nighttime accounts for only 20 percent of car journeys but 40 percent of all fatal accidents.
A WARNING: If your car breaks down on a highway, the NJSP advises, pull as far from traffic as possible and keep your flashers on. If the car stops dead, DON’T get out until you and your passengers, if any, can see a clear break. And DON’T stand around the car, especially on rainy or icy roads, for obvious reasons.