Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trash Talk: Press of AC editor blames peds / State for increase in deaths

On Sunday, The Press of Atlantic City ran an article about the continued high number of pedestrian deaths this year. Pedestrian fatalities are likely to overtake last years numbers which were again higher than the number of pedestrian fatalities in 2007. Sad as it is, as of November 28th there were 24 more pedestrian fatalities then the same date in 2008 (actual number of pedestrian fatalities for year up to 11/28 not given).

However, according to The Press's editor, Jim Perskie, fault lies with the pedestrian victims and State Department of Highway Traffic Safety for initiating the wildly successful Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Program in South Jersey this year. See, according to Perskie's twisted logic, now that the police are reestablishing a pedestrian's right-of-way while in a crosswalk, this is somehow emboldening pedestrians to walk directly out into traffic so they get hit by cars who can not stop in time. Ridiculous!

First of all, being a devout reader of the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian News Digest, I have not anecdotally noticed an outstanding increased trend in pedestrian fatal crashes by people walking out into traffic at crosswalks. Yes, there have been stories of pedestrians being killed while crossing legally in crosswalks but no noticeable spike.

Second, (sorry to break it to you Jimmy) but yielding (or stopping) for pedestrians is the law in every state in the U.S. and in most other civilized nations and is not some wacky idea that bureaucrats though up in Trenton. It's been the law here in New Jersey for 50 years.

Now stop for a second Jimmy. This might come as a surprise, but did you ever think that it might be the bad, reckless, if not homicidal behavior of New Jersey drivers that is to blame? Jim all you would have had to do is shut it for a moment to wait for the story to come over the wire the same day you wrote your piece, to read about the Air Force fighter pilot killed in Cherry Hill while working in his front yard by a driver who was speeding excessively.

While yes, there are jerks that dare drivers to hit them as they jaywalk into traffic, I'd suggest Jim, that before you make wild accusations from your position of influence, try to have more than your clear biases to back you up. We at WalkBikeJesey will keep an eye on you, particularly since this is not the first time you had something less than flattering to say about bicyclists or pedestrians.

In case Jim Perskie's editorial is pulled from the web we've included it verbatim below:
Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

There have been 24 more pedestrian deaths in New Jersey so far this year than in 2008 — and traffic-safety officials can’t figure out why.

“We’ve thrown the kitchen sink at it,” said Pam Fischer, director of the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.

Do you think it might have something to do with the increased enforcement of a decades-old law that gives pedestrians the right of way when in a crosswalk? The law was virtually ignored for years. Whatever the statutes said, pedestrians were taught to stop, look both ways and wait until no cars were coming. It worked pretty well. Then the state started handing out grants for enforcing the crosswalk law — in the name of pedestrian safety, if you can believe it.

All of a sudden, streets were full of pedestrians stepping into crosswalks — and into traffic. Why not? The cars have to stop to let you cross. The law says so. The signs say so. Except they don’t. Not always, or even often. Sometimes a car headed in one direction stops. But the car headed in another doesn’t. And any car that does stop to let a pedestrian cross runs the risk of getting rear-ended.

The Press has run dozens of letters pointing out how dangerous this law is. A friend who is a police officer stopped me on the street to tell me how dangerous this law is.

Everybody seems to get it except state traffic officials.

The kitchen sink isn’t working, folks.

Go back to teaching pedestrians to look both ways and wait for traffic to clear before crossing, and who knows? Just maybe fewer pedestrians will get killed.

2 comments:

clever-title said...

All of a sudden, streets were full of pedestrians stepping into crosswalks — and into traffic. Why not? The cars have to stop to let you cross. The law says so. The signs say so. Except they don’t. Not always, or even often. Sometimes a car headed in one direction stops. But the car headed in another doesn’t. And any car that does stop to let a pedestrian cross runs the risk of getting rear-ended.
Sometimes people ignore stop signs, so you could get hit if you depend on people obeying them; and stop signs necessarily increase your chance of getting rear-ended, so we should get rid of them, too, right?

I lived in Hoboken for several years, and was nearly run over many times. Pedestrians do not wander blindly into the street. From a driver's POV, pedestrians appear "out of nowhere" because cars parked (or double parked) right up to the crosswalk make it impossible to see a pedestrian until the driver is on top of him.

If you wanted to solve the problem, you'd increase the no-parking zone around a crosswalk so that a car travelling the speed limit can reasonably see a pedestrian at the curb and stop before reaching the corsswalk. and then you'd enforce those parking regs with towing. But you'll never hear that from the AC Press.

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