WHAT WE THINK: We have literally reached a crossroads in our so-called evolution. Public safety officials ordinarily warn motorists to be careful, but alerts continue to grow for pedestrians to pay more attention crossing streets, as the number of people hit continues an alarming climb.
It’s gotten to the point that Fort Lee Police Chief Keith Bendul and Ridgewood Police Chief John Ward have joined those law enforcement officials putting undercover officers on the street to catch motorists and pedestrians breaking the law, in the hopes of deterring others.
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 suburbs are filled with cars.
Then again, it could very well come down to deficits of attention.
“We are concerned by the recent trend in pedestrian fatalities and are asking motorists and pedestrians to be mindful of each other on the roads,” said state Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky.
“Both groups share a responsibility to follow our laws,” he said. “Drivers need to stop and stay stopped for pedestrians at crosswalks and pedestrians should only cross at crosswalks. Obeying the law will help ensure a safe holiday season.”
New Jersey law requires you to obey pedestrian signals and use crosswalks at signalized intersections, as well as to yield the right of way to traffic if you aren’t crossing within a crosswalk or at an intersection.
The ticket carries a $54 fine, plus court costs.
Motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians face a $200 fine, plus court costs, and 2 points off their licenses. They can also be subject to 15 days of community service and insurance surcharges.
Drivers know what they should do, but pedestrians can always use refreshers. So instead of taking things for granted when you hit the bricks, 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 text, a phone conversation, a talking book — 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 – or end up with a ticket?
• Don’t assume traffic will stop because you entered a crosswalk. This is New Jersey, remember.
• If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and make eye contact with motorists. Yes: EYE contact.
• You can laugh if you want, but drunk walking is extremely dangerous. Many people have been crushed after losing their balance and falling into the path of a moving vehicle, and that includes trains. Get a ride, sleep over, have someone escort you to your door — 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. Think about it.
ANOTHER WARNING: If your car breaks down on a highway, the NJ State Police advise, 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.
We have literally reached a crossroads in our so-called evolution.