Traveler behavior, and roadway conditions and characteristics play a role in safe mobility within the NJTPA region Focusing planning efforts on numerous specific safety issues can reduce the overall number of crashes, injuries, and deaths. Depending on the specific issue, actions taken in the areas of education, enforcement, or engineering, or a combination of these, may be most effective.
Education seeks to make motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities aware of the rules of the road and to use safe mobility behaviors that will reduce the risk of a crash. Examples of education countermeasures are radio announcements, targeted brochures, and community outreach, all of which are steps that the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety (NJDHTS) has funded in communities throughout the region and the state. The NJTPA is currently undergoing a 2010 Pedestrian Safety at and Near Bus Stop Study (provide link to current studies) that will develop an educational awareness campaign for the NJTPA regarding safe access to and from bus stops within the region.
Education has the potential to be more effective when paired with enforcement of traffic laws by local and state police departments. As a practical matter, it is not possible for law enforcement officers to observe and respond to every violation. However, sustained targeted enforcement campaigns for specific infractions can be effective, such as those to reduce drunk driving and increase seatbelt use.
Engineering for safety focuses on designing roadways to be as safe as possible for motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. It has been demonstrated that certain countermeasures introduced at high crash locations will result in fewer crashes over time. Examples of engineering safety countermeasures include the installation of traffic signals, crosswalks, traffic calming measures, and dedicated left turn lanes. The following are proven countermeasures in reducing injuries and fatalities at the national level and have been adopted for planning consideration within the NJTPA region. Visit Guidance Memorandum on Consideration and Implementation of Proven Safety Countermeasures for a more comprehensive description of each countermeasure.
The following is a list, by no means exhaustive, highlighting some of the safety issues within the NJTPA region.
Aggressive Driving is a combination of unsafe and unlawful driving actions, which demonstrate a conscious and willful disregard for safety. Aggressive driving includes such offenses as tailgating, unsafe lane changes, speeding, and running red lights and stop signs. Education and enforcement are the major areas of focus in combating aggressive driving with. stepped up enforcement of laws that discourage speeding and red light running. New technologies, such as cameras to discourage red light running at intersections, can also help enforce safe driving.
Centerline Crossover Crashes occur when one or more vehicles cross a double yellow line on an undivided highway. The result is often a head-on crash, with sometimes dire consequences. 75% of all head-on crashes occur on undivided two-lane roads. 20% of fatal crashes on rural two-lane roads are the result of centerline crossovers. Centerline crossovers are often associated with distracted or fatigued drivers. Education and enforcement campaigns directed at distracted drivers or driver fatigue may help address centerline crossover crashes, along with other types of crashes. Specific locations with heavy centerline crashes might be addressed by geometric road improvements. Implementing center line rumble strips along stretches of high-risk roadways may provide an audible and tactile warning to inattentive or sleepy drivers who drift close to the centerline.
Resource: NCHRP Synthesis 339 Centerline Rumble Strips (pdf)
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety is of particular concern in the NJTPA region. Decades of building roads primarily with cars in mind has resulted in many areas with unsafe conditions for these most vulnerable users of the roadways. In 2009, 33% of traffic deaths in the region were pedestrians for a total of 115 pedestrian fatalities. Education and enforcement for driver, cyclist, and pedestrian safety is necessary, to support federal and state policy’s commitment for safe mobility of walkers and cyclists to help improve congestion, air quality, and quality of life in our NJTPA communities.
When it comes to non-motorized modes, speed kills. Traffic calming measures can be an effective engineering countermeasure to reduce vehicle speeds, and to educate all road users to “share the road” safely. Adequate pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the form of sidewalks and bicycle lanes and paths both encourage these modes and separate them from automobile traffic. Measures that can improve pedestrian crossing safety include high visibility crosswalks, pedestrian traffic signal countdown heads, median refuges, and leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs). This will be even more effective when coupled with enforcement campaigns. Beginning April 1, 2010, motorists who see pedestrians in a crosswalk must stop and stay stopped in New Jersey.
Deer-Vehicle Crashes are a growing problem in suburban and rural areas. Every year, there are approximately 7,000 reported deer vehicle crashes in New Jersey. NJTPA has identified deer-vehicle crashes as a region wide focus area and initiated a Deer Vehicle Crash Coalition and developed Strategies for Addressing Deer-Vehicle Crashes as part of the 2005 Development of Regional Safety Priorities Study. NJTPA provides “Watch for Deer” brochures to stakeholders and subregions upon request.
Resource: Deer Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse
Drinking and Driving contributes greatly to injuries and deaths on the roadways because it dulls the senses, negatively impacts reaction time, and hampers judgment, vision and alertness. In 2009, there were 54 alcohol-related fatalities in the NJTPA region. Nationwide over 16,000 people lost their lives each year because of drinking and driving and has been the target of numerous education and enforcement campaigns. New Jersey changed its Blood Alcohol Concentration threshold determining drunk driving from 0.10 grams per deciliter to 0.08 in early 2004, and participated in the national “You Drink, You Drive, You Lose” campaign, which includes both targeted enforcement crackdowns and education measures such as Public Service Announcements, variable message signs, etc.
Motorcycle Safety is a growing concern in the NJTPA region. Motorcyclists are approximately 27 times more likely to die than automobile occupants on a per mile basis. The risk of serious injury or death is even greater when a proper helmet (required by law in New Jersey) is not used. Public awareness initiatives that provide safety tips for both motorcyclists and auto drivers are common, but perhaps more effective is motorcycle training classes, which are available for both novice and experienced riders.
Seniors have unique concerns when it comes to getting around safely. They may have
difficulty with crossing intersections within the time allotted to pedestrians and reacting to dangerous situations. In Essex and Bergen counties, elderly residents had higher rates of pedestrian crashes. Due to their relative frailty, older travelers are also more likely to die or to be seriously injured than younger people when they are involved in a crash as a pedestrian or a motorist. As the population continues to age, there will be increased pressure for planners to develop solutions that specifically address the transportation safety of older residents.
Educating seniors on how aging impacts their driving skills has been implemented through the NJDOT’s Senior Mobility Workshops and AAA’s Roadwise Review. Engineering techniques such as increased size and letter height of roadway signs, and more protected left turn signal phases at high-volume intersections can be targeted to areas where seniors live and travel. Supporting transit and pedestrian options for older residents to encourage alternatives to driving, especially when it may not be safe for them to do so is recommended. This may include improvements to transit facilities, and providing refuge islands and extra time for pedestrian signal phases.
Safety Belts are referred to by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the single most effective strategy a person can employ to prevent deaths and injuries” in a vehicle. For young children, proper use of child safety seats is as important as safety belts for adults. Although safety belt use has risen dramatically in the past twenty years, it is estimated that more than 7,000 people are killed and 100,000 injured because they did not wear a safety belt. In 2000 New Jersey introduced a primary safety belt law (NJDHTS Seat Belt Safety) that requires all vehicle occupants to buckle up and allows police officers to pull over motorists if they are not wearing the safety belt. New Jersey Law now requires that children up to age 8 or 80 pounds ride in a safety or booster seat in the rear seat of the vehicle. Parents need to be aware that there are different seat types (NJDHTS Child Seat Safety) for infants, toddlers, and children over 40 pounds, and that it is never safe to use a seat that has already been in a crash. New Jersey conducts a “Click it or Ticket” education and enforcement campaign each year.
Cell Phone Use while driving, whether hand-held or hands-free, is distracting and dangerous, and can result in crashes, injuries, and in some cases the loss of life. This has led to the banning of cell-phone use while driving in N.J. as part of a 2008 distracted driving law. “Hang Up! Just Drive!” and “No Phone Zone Pledge” are educational campaigns that NJDHTS have supported as a result of N.J.’s distracted driving law. In New Jersey, from 2008 and 2009, of the crashes that were reported, there have been 3,610 crashes involving a motorist using a hand-held cell phone, resulting in 1,548 injuries and 13 deaths. During the same time period, 3,129 crashes involving the use of a hands-free device resulted in 1,495 injuries and 6 fatalities. Many drivers involved in a crash don’t admit to use of a cell-phone while driving, which means that the actual number of cell phone-related crashes in New Jersey is much greater. Motorists violating New Jersey’s law face a $100 fine plus court costs and fees.
Resource: N.J. Division of Highway Traffic Safety