WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey has been named the worst in the country for pedestrian fatalities, according to a new report. Experts say there are a variety of reasons why.
It was back-to-back tragedies in September when two pedestrians were struck and killed in separate incidents on Route 42 in Washington Township.
“Both were nighttime crashes where pedestrians were trying to cross Highway 42 and were struck by vehicles,” Washington Township Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik said.
While total traffic fatalities are down nationwide over the last decade, pedestrian fatalities are up 35%.
According to a new report, the worst states for pedestrian fatalities are New Jersey, New York and Delaware.
In New Jersey, there were 175 pedestrian deaths last year and the number one cause is crossing roads where it’s prohibited.
“I would say that’s closely attributed to cellphone use. A lot of people are paying attention to that text message or communicating through social media and not paying attention to using the crosswalks and not paying attention to their safety,” Camden County Police Sgt. Anthony Aceto said.
Experts say distracted driving is also to blame for pedestrian deaths. Experts say the way to reverse the trend is for towns to add more crosswalk signs, increase lighting and remind drivers it’s state law to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
Towns with lots of businesses and motels on major highways like Route 42 may also look to add fencing to the median to prevent jaywalking. Washington Township plans to do just that with a new $19 million construction project.
“Prevent people from trying to cross in the middle of the roadway and it would force them down to the crosswalk at the intersections,” Gurcsik said.
Construction on Route 42, including the pedestrian barrier, is expected to begin at the end of the year.