New Jersey Needs to Face Its Pedestrian Fatality Problem

The other day, a woman on foot was killed by a someone driving a car in
New Jersey. Sadly, that isn’t terribly unusual. What made this death
more "newsworthy" — elevating it briefly to the CNN headline stack
yesterday — was the fact that Alexis Cohen, the woman who was left on the side of the road by a hit-and-run driver, had auditioned for American Idol.

But as the blog of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia points out, Alexis Cohen was one of many, including Casey Feldman, another young woman hit in another Jersey beach town just a week earlier: 

398103105_7f23b59b12.jpgWhy is New Jersey’s pedestrian fatality rate so high? And what can they do about it? Photo by iirraa via Flickr.

To
date [in 2009] more than 90 pedestrians have been killed on NJ roads,
accounting for a nation-leading 30 percent of all traffic fatalities,
almost
three times the national average. Googling NJ Pedestrian enforcement
indicates that law enforcement has responded in some places with
ticketing blitzes. However, interviews with various government
officials indicate that no one is quite sure how to effectively deal
with the problem, with one official speculating that the economy was responsible for the increase.

Let’s
end
the speculation and put together the facts. The stakeholders in New
Jersey need to put their collective minds together to analyze and solve
the problem at hand:

  • Using police reports analyze a large sample of recent fatal pedestrian crashes with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool
    (PBCAT). PBCAT is a software application designed to assist state and
    local pedestrian and bicycle coordinators, planners, and engineers in
    addressing pedestrian and bicyclist crash problems.
  • Compile
    the actual investigative follow-up from the crashes — were charges
    filed, were other countermeasures recommended or implemented?
  • Condense the results into a report that breaks out the most common factors, outcomes and recommended countermeasures.
  • Convene
    a pedestrian safety summit with NJ DOT, Traffic Safety, law
    enforcement, elected officals, pedestrian safety experts and
    transportation planners all at the table.
  • The summit would then generate a list of recommendations and goals for the state and local governments to implement.
  • Follow up with an evaluation of the process. Did the recommendations actually contribute to reducing pedestrian deaths?

These
are worthy recommendations, it seems to us. But the headlines are
already moving on. Will New Jersey officials have the motivation, or
the political will, to deal with the problem? 

More from the network: Maybe GM should focus on its bike division if it wants to be viable for the future, says Boot ‘n’ Scoot. Tucson Bike Lawyer laments the hate-filled nature of online bike vs. pedestrian discourse. And Boston Biker
has two open letters: One to the driver who swerved across three lanes
of traffic to cut him off, and one to the cop who thought it wasn’t a
problem.

  • Spokker

    We often defend pedestrian deaths by train (Blue Line anyone?), by stating that it was the idiot who got in front of the train that is to blame. I think the same courtesy should be extended to cars. I mean, God, the amount of jaywalking I see on a daily basis is ridiculous.

  • Spokker

    I’m sure that Alexis Cohen would be glad that this site, so angry about her tragic death, supports drinking and riding and two groups that are known to do it.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/midnight-ridazz-los-angeles

    “Yes, sir…

    Nothin like throwin back a six pack of PBR while groovin to “Boogie Wonderland” through Koreatown at midnight with 1400 other crazy fools on wheels.

    Stop. Take a break. Guzzle more beer.”

    Awesome brosef.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33kz-cuojFU

    If only Alexis had been hit by a drunken cyclist and knocked to the ground, severely hitting her head on the pavement, she would not be dead today, only mildly paralyzed. That’s a big improvement over cars!

  • Spokker

    http://www.midnightridazz.com/viewStory.php?storyId=528

    “DRINKING IS STRONGLY ENCOURAGED!!!!!!!”

    “DRINKING IS STRONGLY ENCOURAGED!!!!!!!”

    “DRINKING IS STRONGLY ENCOURAGED!!!!!!!”

    Gosh, and I was thinking that it was just a bad apple, and not ENCOURAGED BY THE MOTHER FUCKING GROUP.

  • DJB

    I think all pedestrian deaths are sad, no matter how they are caused. With regard to the point about jaywalking, I agree that pedestrians have an obligation to use caution. However, the obligation to use caution goes up as your capacity to cause harm goes up. Hence, drivers of all vehicles, who carry enough weight to kill around at high speeds, need to be extra careful.

    In 2006, America had about 43,000 deaths (or to use a different unit, 14 “9/11s” of death) caused by motor vehicle accidents according to the CDC. Seems like all the more reason to promote modes of transportation that don’t add to that grim figure (and help the environment at the same time).

  • Spokker

    “However, the obligation to use caution goes up as your capacity to cause harm goes up.”

    And I think the opposite is true. The obligation to use caution goes up as your risk goes up.

    Specifically I want to point out North Hollywood and the Orange Line because it’s fresh in my mind. Go observe one day how people run across the intersection just to catch a train or bus on the other side. People make these dangerous maneuvers and it’s astonishing to watch. As someone who only crosses when the little walking guy appears, I feel stupid while everybody else risks life and limb trying to cross the street. And when a car hits them, we’ll feel outraged. But when a train hits a dude, we say, Oh, it was their fault!

    Don’t get me wrong. Someone who hits another person while driving drunk or recklessly deserves every punishment that’s coming to them. But pedestrians have to be just as vigilant as drivers while navigating the city.

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