The State Pedestrian Safety Law cited as the “Most Ignored” Legal Measure of All Time

Written by Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, Ed.D

Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, Ed.D

Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro a is a learning, transition and disability policy specialist, who represents people with disabilities at New Jersey’s Office of Administrative Law.  He holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law School.  He has consulted the US Congress on each reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act since it's inception, and has authored numerous books, professional journal articles and research studies in the areas of disability policy, education, rehabilitation, and community acquiescence. 

Sunday, 18 March 2012 00:00

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During the past decade, New Jersey has had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation. In fact, the fatality rate for pedestrians was nearly three times the national average. The risk that pedestrians face at crosswalks is even higher for people with disabilities and those with disabling conditions. Those who have difficulty walking at a brisk pace are especially vulnerable, as they raise the ire of aggressive drivers.

In order to resolve this safety issue for all pedestrians, including those with disabilities, new laws were passed and signed at the state and national levels.

In January 2010, the Governor signed a law that required automobiles to come to a complete stop at crosswalks. In addition, the drivers are compelled to remain at a complete stop until the pedestrian has exited the street and is safely standing on the opposite sidewalk. The prior law only required drivers to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. However, the rising number of pedestrian fatalities caused the Legislature to pass the current law. Two years ago, at the beginning of the 214th Legislature, the bi-partisan bill, then listed as Bill No. A-1329/S-2480 (and sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Stender, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, Assemblyman Tom Giblin, Senator Tom Kean, Senator Jim Beach) was signed by Governor Christie. One year prior to our State Law, President Obama signed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act

Our New Jersey Law:

  • “Requires New Jersey drivers to stop and remain stopped–not simply yield–while pedestrians are in crosswalks.
  • Continues to require that motorists yield to pedestrians in unmarked crosswalks.
  • Requires motorists making right turns at red or yellow signals or at stop or yield signs, to stop for pedestrians crossing the street onto which the motorist is turning.
  • Increases the fine for violations to $200, and a portion of that fine goes to the Pedestrian Safety and Enforcement Fund.
  • Assumes the motorist did not exercise care for the safety of the pedestrian if a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk (either marked or unmarked)”.

Nevertheless, many pedestrians complain that our "State Pedestrian Safety Law” may be the most ignored legal measure ever passed. People with disabilities and senior citizens have indicated to this writer that the Law is simply not enforced. Furthermore, these vulnerable pedestrians indicate that they feel their lives are endangered whenever they cross a street.

Certainly, pedestrians must follow the law and obey safety measures, using crosswalks, rather than jaywalking. In fact, the State Law requires pedestrian to follow safety rules. Yet, pedestrians complain that drivers do not come to a complete stop, or speed by, barely missing pedestrians, as they hurry to their destination. Aggressive drivers have been cited for shouting at senior citizens who use walkers, because they are not walking fast enough to suit them.

As studies have also indicated, the elderly and those with disabling conditions have very limited income and rely on walking as their main form of transportation. Yet, they are placed in jeopardy whenever they attempt to walk to a supermarket, doctor’s office, or a bank. Complicating the issue is the economic downturn that has forced local communities to lay off members of their police force. With an inadequate number of officers, the monitoring of crosswalk safety is not high on the law enforcement list.

Nevertheless, we have a disabled population with three times the unemployment rate of their non-disabled peers. In fact, their disabling conditions makes community acquiescence a challenge. Adding inadequate public safety to the issue clearly diminishes the overall quality of life. Certainly, New Jerseyans with disabilities and senior citizens deserve better.

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The State Pedestrian Safety Law cited as the  “Most Ignored” Legal Measure of All Time