Zero fatalities in New Jersey? State considering an ambitious goal

Can you imagine a year without fatalities on the roads of New Jersey?

A bill pending action in the state legislature would put New Jersey on the path to that goal. And with the number of fatalities in 2022 drastically exceeding last year’s figures, advocates suggest now is the time to act.

Introduced in June, the bill would create the New Jersey Vision Zero Task Force, named after an approach to road safety which aims to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries on the road.

under the bill, the 21-member task force would advise the governor, legislature and Department of Transportation on policies, programs and priorities to help achieve that same ambitious goal. The legislation lists 2035 as the deadline for achieving the goal.

“New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation and one of the busiest in our country. Ongoing efforts to evaluate road safety and design transportation systems with the goal of reducing accidents must be a top priority for residents and visitors to our state,” the senator said. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, and MP 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. As of the same date last year, the number was 292.

“We have no illusions that this will be an easy fix, but we want to see leadership and guidance to start this process,” said Sonia Szczsna, active transportation director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, in New Jersey 101.5. “‘Zero’ is going to be a lot of work and that’s why we want a statewide task force — because we’re going to have to coordinate municipal, county and state jurisdictions.”

The campaign is one of more than 20 groups that make up the New Jersey Vision Zero Alliance.

The Vision Zero approach recognizes that mistakes do happen — with well-designed roads, those mistakes don’t have to be fatal.

“It’s really about reducing the severity of accidents,” Szczesna said. “It doesn’t totally eliminate them, but it does make those errors and cases less serious.”

The approach also focuses on public transportation — you shouldn’t have to drive to get anywhere in the state, Szczesna said.

With a historic increase in transportation infrastructure funding to New Jersey, Szczesna added, the proposed task force would help ensure that the investments made now make the roads safe for everyone.

Some cities have their own Vision Zero policies on their books, but cities can’t go that far without county and state cooperation.

Hoboken has had no pedestrian fatalities since 2018. Road fatalities in Jersey City are down 40% from last year.

“A state-level Vision Zero task force is essential to expanding these efforts and would devote the resources and attention needed to make the streets safer for all road users statewide,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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