Plan to Focus on Improving Education, Enhanced Engineering & Enforcement is Coupled with Announcement of New State Grants for Pedestrian Safety Improvements
Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Herb Conaway, Jr. M.D. (both D-Burlington) have introduced an ambitious three-bill package to boost pedestrian safety throughout the state, particularly in Burlington County where Route 130, considered the state's most dangerous corridor, is located.
The lawmakers coupled the introduction of the measures this week with the announcement that two Burlington County municipalities have been awarded state grants to boost pedestrian safety. Burlington City will receive a Transit Village Grant from the Department of Transportation (DOT) in the amount of $160,000 to fund Phase 1 of the riverfront promenade pedestrian access and roundabout improvement plan while Delran Township will receive a DOT Safe Streets to Transit Grant in the amount of $250,000 to be used for Route 130 sidewalk improvements.
"These grants, as always, are a huge help for towns struggling to improve public safety without placing an added burden on local taxpayers," said Singleton. "These critical funds will help improve pedestrian safety and boost access to public transportation."
"Part of the 7th district's charm is its proximity to the Delaware River with walkable downtowns and access to abundant transportation options," said Conaway. "These grants will help enhance these assets while putting public safety first."
Building upon these improvements, the legislative package Singleton and Conaway introduced this week will sharply stiffen fines and penalties for pedestrian-related motor vehicle accidents in order to help fund what they view as the three critical E's to improving pedestrian safety - education, enhanced engineering and enforcement.
Noting the high number of fatalities along Route 130 in Burlington County, the lawmakers designed the bills to crack down on anyone convicted of violating current laws that pertain to a driver's responsibility:
- Concerning pedestrians at intersections, both those that ARE controlled by a traffic control device or police officer and those that are NOT;
- When making a right turn at a red or yellow traffic signal to stop and remain stopped for pedestrians crossing within the adjacent crosswalk into which the motorist is turning; and
- When making a right turn at a stop or yield sign to stop and remain stopped for pedestrians crossing within the adjacent crosswalk into which the motorist is turning.
"For a variety of reasons, Route 130 in Burlington County has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most dangerous corridors in our state," said Singleton. "Since it was first constructed, changing demographics and population density have made it a hindrance to public safety. These bills will help raise awareness and boost education on pedestrian safety while funding improvements to make our highways more pedestrian-friendly."
"Whether its Burlington or Bergen County, there's no denying that we live in the most densely populated state in the country," said Conaway. "This presents a dilemma when it comes to balancing the desire to accommodate motorists with the need to protect pedestrians, particularly school children. I think we've found a healthy balance in these bills that will combine education with roadway improvements to facilitate both."
The first bill (A-4063) would impose a $1,000 fine for certain existing motor vehicle violations that result in serious bodily injury or death to certain people, including pedestrians, bike riders, wheel chair operators, and construction or roadway improvement workers. The fine would be deposited into the "Pedestrian Safety Enforcement and Education Fund" and violators would also be required to complete remedial training. The penalties imposed by the bill are in addition to any other fine or penalty currently imposed by law.
Under the bill, a person convicted of certain violations that result in serious bodily injury to a pedestrian would also be subject to an additional fine of between $100 and $500, and may be subject to imprisonment for a period of up to 25 days, a license suspension up to six months, or both, at the discretion of the court.
The second bill (A-4064) would increase fines for violations concerning pedestrians in intersections to $250, $150 of which would be deposited into the "Pedestrian Safety Enforcement and Education Fund" and $50 of the $150 deposited into the fund would be dedicated to initiatives on high priority roadways. Current fines for these violations range from $54-$200.
The bill defines a "high priority roadway" as a highway on which there were more than four pedestrian fatalities in the previous calendar year or more than eight pedestrian fatalities in the prior three calendar years.
The third bill (A-4065) would require that 10 percent of all fines, penalties, and forfeitures imposed and collected for motor vehicle violations be forwarded to the Department of the Treasury for deposit in the "State Safe Routes to School Fund." When appropriating the funds, preference would be given to local governments or school districts that have implemented initiatives on high priority roadways.