‘Street Smart NJ’ campaign tries to reduce pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes

NEWARK, NJ — The city of Newark will be participating in the March 2016 Street Smart NJ Pedestrian Safety Education Campaign, “Street Smart NJ,” which aims at reducing pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents in Newark and throughout all of New Jersey.

The Street Smart NJ campaign is a collaborative effort between public, private and nonprofit organizations. Local police will work with several partners — including Newark Downtown District, Ironbound Business Improvement District, Rutgers University, Prudential and many others to educate motorists and pedestrians throughout the month of March.

“Even one death on our streets is too many. We continue to educate our residents and visitors about the simple steps they can take to be safe on our streets. We are letting people know the steps they can take to ensure their own safety, and the consequences for violating the law,” said Mayor Ras J. Baraka on Thursday, Feb. 25.

The campaign comes at a significant time for the state of New Jersey and the city of Newark. New Jersey is ranked sixth in the nation in pedestrian fatalities, according to 2014 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal government has designated New Jersey a “focus” state — placing an extra emphasis on aiding the state in combating its higher-than-average pedestrian fatality rate and providing funding for this campaign. The city is participating in this vital pedestrian education campaign because it also has been designated by the Federal Highway Administration as a “focus city” for having a greater-than-average number of pedestrian injuries and deaths. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 1,854 pedestrian crashes in Newark, claiming 35 lives and injuring 1,819 others.

“During the month of March you will see street signs, posters, tip cards and other educational materials throughout Newark. Our campaign and its partners will also be sending e-blasts in an effort to raise additional awareness about our pedestrian safety efforts this month,” said Engineering Director Phillip Scott on Thursday, Feb. 25. Street Teams — groups of professionals and volunteers — will go out in Newark to distribute safety tips at busy intersections.

“Police will interact with motorists to make sure they know and obey the law and stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk,” said Signals Manager Jack Nata on Thursday, Feb. 25. “We’ll also remind pedestrians to use crosswalks and cross at intersections and not jaywalk.”

Officers will also address speeding and distracted driving and walking, which often contribute to crashes involving pedestrians.

Pedestrian safety is an ongoing challenge in New Jersey. In 2014, 170 pedestrians died as a result of pedestrian-vehicle crashes, according to the most recent data available from the New Jersey state police. From 2010 through 2014, 749 pedestrians were killed on New Jersey’s roads and more than 17,000 were injured, according to the New Jersey state police. That translates into one death every 2.4 days and 11 injuries daily.

The statewide Street Smart NJ campaign is managed by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and began in 2013. The campaign urges pedestrians and motorists to “check your vital signs” to improve safety on the road. Motorists are urged to obey the speed limit and stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Pedestrians are told to use crosswalks and wait for the walk signal where applicable. A new “heads up, phone down” message has been added to the campaign this year to combat distracted driving and walking.