Imagine a day where no one was injured or killed on New Jersey’s roadways. Sound impossible? Considering that the vast majority – nearly 90 percent – of all motor vehicle crashes are the result of unsafe behavior, each of us, whether we drive a car, ride a bike or travel on foot, holds the key to making our roadways safer.
You’ve probably witnessed conflicts between cars, buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists, and even been involved in a traffic crash here in the Garden State. That’s not surprising when you consider how densely populated it is. The state averages 300,000 crashes a year (that’s an astounding 822 per day) and while motor vehicle fatalities in New Jersey had fallen to historic lows, last year 627 people died on the state’s roadways -- a 12.7 increase over 2010.
What can you do to help make your daily travels safer? First, take a step back and assess how you behave when you’re in traffic. If the car is your preferred mode of transportation, do you always observe the posted speed limit, refrain from driving distracted, observe all signs and signals, signal your intentions, and stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk?
If you prefer to get around on foot (remember every motorist becomes a pedestrian once s/he steps out of her/his vehicle), do you always use crosswalks or cross at the corner, obey all traffic/pedestrian signals, and refrain from texting or getting lost in an electronic device while walking? And not forgetting bicyclists, do you ride with the flow of traffic (under New Jersey law bicyclists are considered motor vehicles), alert motorists when you’re preparing to turn, and yield the right of way to pedestrians?
If not, it’s time for a safety reality check. Oh I know what you’re thinking: you’re not the only offender. True, none of us is perfect when it comes to observing the rules of the road. But if we want others to make safety a priority (and we certainly want to be good role models for our teen drivers and their younger siblings), we have to start with ourselves. Take stock of what you’re doing when you’re in, on or near the road and then take the necessary steps to correct the behaviors that are not only putting you, but others (maybe even your friends, co-workers and family) at risk.
Sharing the road takes a commitment on everyone’s part to not only observe the rules of the road, but look out for each other. It’s unlikely that you set out today with the intention of being involved in a crash, but 436 people (as of Oct. 7) have died (an average of 1.55 per day) on New Jersey’s roadways so far this year and many more have been injured. As the state and nation prepare for “Put the Brakes on Fatalities” Day, observed annually on October 10, look inward and decide what unsafe motorist, pedestrian and/or bicyclist behaviors you need to address and then get to work.
The solution is as easy as always…
- Buckling up every ride, no matter how short the trip (and make sure all passengers are properly restrained, too).
- Obeying the posted speed limit, yielding the right of way and increasing your follow distance (a common cause of many motor vehicle crashes in New Jersey).
- Using crosswalks or crossing at the corner when on foot and stopping to allow pedestrians in the crosswalk to safely cross the street.
- Eliminating all distractions so that you’re 100% focused on driving, walking or biking and able to react.
- Wearing an approved helmet regardless of whether you ride a bike or motorcycle.
- Refraining from impaired (no alcohol and/or drugs) and drowsy driving (the latter is particularly problematic for teens, young adults and people who do shift work).
While you might think zero is an impossible goal -- particularly when it comes to ending the carnage on our roads -- it’s the only acceptable one. Consider this, if someone had to die in a motor vehicle crash today and that someone was your loved one, would that be acceptable? Absolutely not. Join with me in making zero crashes, injuries and fatalities your goal today and every day of the year. It’s a goal we can all live with.