New Jersey has seen a number of car accidents involving pedestrians in the past few months. In response, Fort Lee, NJ set up a new operation to curb these incidents. Reporting on this “sting operation,” NBC New York explains that it’s occurring after 12 pedestrians were hit during January and February 2012 in Fort Lee alone. In fact, 68 people were struck in the town last year, and four of them were killed.
Under the New Jersey Statute 39:4-36, the driver of a vehicle must stop and stay stopped for a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk. This law replaces an older one that only required drivers to yield to pedestrians within a crosswalk. Under the new law, motorists who fail to stop can be subject to one or more of the following:
- 2 points on their license;
- $200 fine, plus court costs;
- 15 days of community service; and
- Insurance surcharges
The sting operation relies on the law’s requirement that motorists actually come to a stop for pedestrians.
Details of the Sting Operation
In order to catch drivers who may not be abiding by New Jersey’s crosswalk law, Fort Lee set up a plainclothes police officer as a “crosswalk decoy” in a number of crosswalk areas. The officer “crosses the street at one of the city’s dangerous intersections,” and when motorists do not yield, the motorist is pulled over. More than 50 tickets were issued on the first day of the operation.
Fort Lee is following the lead of North Bergen, where sting operations began earlier this year. An article in the New Jersey Newsroom indicated that these pedestrian safety efforts are not “about writing the most tickets.” Yet some motorists do not think the sting operation is fair. They’ve accused the plainclothes officers of “not playing fair,” arguing that “they couldn’t see anyone in the crosswalk until it was too late to stop.” According to NorthJersey.com, motorists stopped during the sting were issued hefty $230 tickets.
Motorists in other states echo these concerns. In a similar operation in Orange County, Florida, a ticketed driver complained that he hadn’t done anything wrong when he failed to see a pedestrian, according to a story in WESH Orlando. The driver argued that the plainclothes decoy officer “was crazy for walking across like that.”
Pedestrian safety is an important issue not only in North Jersey, but throughout the United States. Similar to many towns in the area, Fort Lee is a “municipality that bears the unfortunate burden of providing several shortcuts to and from the George Washington Bridge.” As a result, the area sees a lot of traffic from commuters who may be in a hurry.
While drivers argue that pedestrians are at fault for erratic walking, these operations seem necessary to reduce pedestrian injuries. Clearly, motorists and pedestrians do not have an equal risk of injury when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. Regardless of how a pedestrian chooses to cross at a crosswalk, motorists are still the ones who are endangering lives.
Pedestrian Safety Tips
How can you stay safe as a pedestrian? The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety provides a few tips for pedestrians to stay safe when crossing the street. These tips are especially important to follow, given that the recent sting operation highlights the fact that New Jersey drivers aren’t always going to follow the crosswalk law.
Safety tips include:
- Always cross at corners within marked crosswalks;
- If you’re crossing at another location, yield to vehicles (or you could be fined);
- Look left, right, and left again before you cross;
- Always walk facing traffic;
- Always obey traffic signals, including crosswalk “Walk/Don’t Walk” signals;
- Stay alert—try to avoid texting and/or talking on your phone while crossing a street- be mindful of the traffic around you;
- Wear reflective clothing
- Stay sober—if you’re walking while impaired, you increase your risk of being hit by a motorist.
If you or a loved one have been injured, contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your case.