Distraction apparently is taking its toll in New Jersey, where driver deaths are down but pedestrian deaths are considerably up from last year.
Authorities won’t speculate why, but they say the jump to 71 pedestrian deaths this year from 50 over the same period last year is “disturbing.”
You still see plenty of people holding cellphones to their ears as they drive. A few days ago, a guy behind me had his phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Drivers are texting, as well. And right on red seems more a liberty than a caution.
But we can’t put it all on them.
How many people do you see talking or texting on a cell as they walk? Yesterday morning, I watched a woman outside my building cross a busy street, head down, texting. Fortunately, no cars came by.
Memorial Day weekend is always a launching pad for safety warnings; last year, five people died on New Jersey roadways during the unofficial beginning of summer.
State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes urged people to be as concerned as they are informed.
“We are building on last year’s record lows in every sector but pedestrian fatalities,” Fuentes said. “Last year was a 20-year low for statewide fatalities on New Jersey roadways, and we must not forget the safe driving behaviors that led to that decrease.”
Fuentes vowed that his officers will be cruising around, looking for “intoxicated drivers, aggressive drivers, seatbelt usage, cell phone violators, and keeping pedestrians off the highways.”
The superintendent promised “zero tolerance.”
Local police will have DWI patrols out in force, and both state and local authorities said they will participate in the “Click It or Ticket” campaign.
“Memorial Day marks the start of the busy summer travel season, so there’s no better time to remind motorists of the importance of practicing good driving behaviors to ensure their safety and that of their passengers and everyone else on the road,” said Pam Fischer, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
“Regardless of where you’re sitting in a motor vehicle, a seat belt is the simplest way to protect yourself in the event of a crash,” Fischer said. “Wearing a seat belt increases your chances of surviving a crash by as much as 75 percent.”