Middlesex County in July became the first county in New Jersey to formally adopt a Vision Zero goal, seeking to completely eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on its roads. The county Board of Commissioners adopted the goal and established the Vision Zero Partnership which will implement the county’s Vision Zero action plan.
Vision Zero goals have also been adopted by the cities of Jersey City and Hoboken. The NJTPA recently adopted regional safety performance targets that seeks to meet Vision Zero goals regionwide by 2050.
Middlesex County Planning Director Doug Greenfeld shared the county’s approach to its Vision Zero action plan during the NJTPA’s Regional Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) meeting on Tuesday.
The Middlesex County Vision Zero Action Plan, an initiative of the Transportation and Mobility Chapter of the county’s strategic plan, Destination 2040, is organized around the five elements of the Safe System Approach recommended by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):
- Safe roads
- Safe speeds
- Safe road users
- Safe vehicles
- Safe post-crash response and care
“With Vision Zero, our approach is that traffic deaths are preventable, humans make mistakes and human bodies have limited ability to tolerate crash impacts,” Greenfeld said. As such, streets should be designed to minimize the impacts of mistakes, with a focus on systems rather than relying on the individual. “Saving lives does not have to be expensive, there are many low-cost solutions,” he said.
“Our objective is to change culture and we’re partnering with our municipalities to be successful,” Greenfeld said. The partnership comprises a Leadership Committee, composed of county and municipal elected leaders, with two working groups reporting to it. The Complete Streets Working Group focuses on safer roads and safer road users while the Culture of Safety Working Group focuses on safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care.
Traffic deaths are on the rise across the United States and in the county. Between 2010 and 2019, there were almost 300,000 recorded crashes in Middlesex County, with 466 resulting in fatalities and 964 in suspected serious injuries. On average, the county saw two crashes per hour, four fatalities and 23 injuries per month.
Bicyclists and pedestrians comprised less than 2 percent of collisions but accounted for 24 percent of high-severity crashes which reinforces that the “most vulnerable roadway users are people who walk or bike,” Greenfeld said. These crashes were particularly concentrated within urbanized New Brunswick and Perth Amboy.
More than half of fatal or serious injuries (52 percent) occurred on county and municipal roads, with almost a third (32 percent) on state roads and one in eight (12.5 percent) on interstates or the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway.
Fatal and serious injury crash hot spots were clustered around New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Edison and Woodbridge, and along major roadways. Most of these crashes are in the northern half of the county especially around major intersections such as GSP and Route 9 junction. Based on more recent 10-year crash data ending in 2022, the deadliest roads in the county are Route 1 and the New Jersey Turnpike.
The presentation can be found here. A recording of the RTAC meeting can be accessed here.