Narrow street, slower speeds: NJ towns can make it safer for pedestrians
A new report finds crossing the street in the Garden State can be risky.
The Smart Growth America report finds that over the past decade, New Jersey had 1.73 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people, which is slightly higher than the national average of 1.55.
The report also finds New Jersey is doing a better job than many other states in improving its Pedestrian Danger Index, which divides the pedestrian fatality rate by the percentage of commuting trips that are made by foot.
From 2008 to 2017, New Jersey’s Pedestrian Danger Index was 54.1, compared to the national average of 55.3. That means New Jersey is considered the 21st most dangerous state in the nation for pedestrians.
Last year, according to New Jersey State Police data, 177 pedestrians were killed in New Jersey, down slightly from 183 fatalities in 2017.
And over the past decade, 1,543 pedestrians lost their lives in the Garden State.
So why are so many walkers in New Jersey getting killed?
Traffic safety experts point to a frenetic pace of life, driver distraction and the fact that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation.
Tim Evans, the director of research for New Jersey Future, a nonprofit organization that promotes sensible growth and infrastructure, believes there is also another reason.
He pointed out pedestrian fatality rates are trending higher because the enormous Baby Boomer generation is moving into the old age category.
“Their reflexes aren’t as sharp, they don’t move as fast, so both as pedestrians and as drivers, the older you get the more likely you are to be involved in an accident," he said.
He noted our density as a state actually works to some degree to promote safety.
“Where you have higher densities you tend to have more intense development where you have more people on the street, so roads are designed more for pedestrians and less for moving cars," he said.
He said an important step we can take to improve pedestrian safety is to promote and develop residential areas that feature “narrower streets, slower speeds, on-street parking that shields pedestrians from moving traffic.”
He noted you see a lot more of this kind of residential development in an older state like New Jersey, compared to California, Arizona or Florida where a lot of development has been more recent.