Sunday, January 04, 2015

Death by Walking Fuels Increase in NJ Traffic Deaths.

According to the NJ State Police 563 people were killed by motor vehicle crashes in 2014, a 4% increase from 2013. However people in cars and on bicycles actually saw slight declines. There were 170 people killed by motor vehicles while walking in New Jersey, a 28% increase. Pedestrians now account for 30% of all fatalities in New Jersey but as the US Census American Community Survey shows only 3.1% of the residents walk to work.


Sources: NJ State Police and US Census American Community Survey
*Census includes Taxi and Motorcycle riders

Inattentive driving (distracted?), impaired driving and speeding were the primary factors for 73% of all fatal crashes. Traffic deaths take their greatest toll on older New Jerseyans, more than 50% of the victims were aged 50 and over.


The societal and economic losses of traffic fatalities is almost impossible to comprehend. The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that in 2010 the economic and societal costs of each traffic fatality was about 6 Million dollars, which tallies up to a $3.4 Billion loss for the State of New Jersey in 2014, nearly equal to NJDOT's entire transportation budget.

Non-ADA Compliant crosswalk on Route 130 at Holy Cross High where
20 year old Christal Smith was killed by a red light runner in 2013
A Vision Zero approach to road safety has been successfully implemented in Sweden, reducing fatalities by 50% since 1970. In Sweden a resident has a 1 in 38,000 chance annually of dying in a crash, while in New Jersey resident has a 1 in 16,000 chance**.


Traffic volumes and traffic deaths in Sweden are on opposite trend lines.

Recently New York City and San Francisco have adopted Vision Zero policies. While much of the early discussion in NY and SF has been around education and enforcement the Swedes have attained much of their success through improving the infrastructure as quoted in this article in the Economist.

Planning has played the biggest part in reducing accidents. Roads in Sweden are built with safety prioritised over speed or convenience. Low urban speed-limits, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bikes and oncoming traffic have helped. Building 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) of "2+1" roads—where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a middle lane for overtaking—is reckoned to have saved around 145 lives over the first decade of Vision Zero. And 12,600 safer crossings, including pedestrian bridges and zebra-stripes flanked by flashing lights and protected with speed-bumps, are estimated to have halved the number of pedestrian deaths over the past five years.

Completes Streets policies have been aggressively promoted to counties and municipalities by NJ DOT, but while many local governments have adopted policies few have been willing to implement changes. Vision Zero is the broader reaching goal that provides clarity and accountability for strategies like complete streets policies as well as targeted education and enforcement.
**Traffic fatalities divided by total population

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