Zero traffic fatalities in New Jersey? Lawmakers considering ambitious goal
Could you imagine a year of zero fatalities on New Jersey's roads?
A proposed law waiting for action in the state Legislature would put New Jersey on a path toward that goal. And with the number of fatal crashes in 2022 significantly outpacing last year's numbers, advocates suggest now is the time to act.
Introduced in June, the legislation would establish the New Jersey Vision Zero Task Force, named after an approach to traffic safety that aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries.
Under the bill, the 21-member task force would advise the Governor, Legislature, and Department of Transportation, regarding policies, programs and priorities to help achieve that same ambitious goal. The legislation points to 2035 as a deadline for hitting the goal.
"New Jersey is the country's most densely populated state and among our nation's most traveled. Continued efforts to evaluate traffic safety and transportation system designs with the goal of reducing crashes must be a top priority for residents of and visitors to our state," Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, and Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, D-Middlesex, said in a joint statement.
There have been 340 fatal crashes in the Garden State in 2022, as of July 11, according to New Jersey State Police. On the same date last year, the count was 292.
"We have no illusions that this will be an easy fix, but we want to see leadership and guidance on starting this process," Sonia Szczsna, director of active transportation for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, told New Jersey 101.5. "'Zero' is going to take a lot of work and that's why we want a statewide task force — because we're going to need to coordinate municipal, county and state-level jurisdictions."
The Campaign is one of the more than 20 groups that make up the Vision Zero New Jersey Alliance.
The vision-zero approach acknowledges that mistakes happen — with properly designed roadways, those mistakes don't have to be deadly.
"It's really looking at reducing the severity of crashes," Szczesna said. "It doesn't totally eliminate them, but it makes those mistakes and those instances less severe."
The approach also focuses on mass transportation — you shouldn't have to drive to get somewhere in the state, Szczesna said.
With a historic increase in transportation infrastructure funding heading to New Jersey, Szczesna added, the proposed task force would help ensure that investments being made now make roads safe for all.
Select cities have their own Vision Zero policies on their books, but towns can only go so far without cooperation from the county and state.
Hoboken has recorded zero pedestrian deaths since 2018. Traffic fatalities in Jersey City are down 40% compared to last year.
"A Vision Zero Task Force on the state level is critical to expand upon these efforts and would devote the resources and attention needed to achieve safer streets for all road users across the entire state," said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.