It’s a problem that keeps getting worse. Pedestrian fatalities are continuing to go up in the Garden State.

Eric Heitmann, director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, said despite efforts to educate drivers and walkers about this issue, pedestrian deaths are increasing.

“Our goal is zero deaths. Unfortunately, the last couple of years, they’ve gone and continue to go in the wrong direction,” he said.

According to New Jersey State Police statistics, in 2019 there were 176 pedestrian fatalities, last year there were 178, and through the first nine months of this year, there have been 138 pedestrians killed.

“What’s alarming is that year after year pedestrians make up a disproportionately large percentage of our overall traffic fatalities,” said Heitmann.

He said part of the challenge is New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation, with many people on foot especially in urban areas, so “what we do is work with public and private partners year-round to promote pedestrian safety and reduce the risk of pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crashes, it’s certainly a priority of ours.”

Towards that end, Heitmann said programs like Street Smart NJ, a public education campaign, have been created “to help police officers interact with drivers and pedestrians, they educate people about the laws like the requirement that drivers stop for people in crosswalks, and also increasing enforcement."

In New Jersey, failure to stop for a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk is punishable by 2 points, a $200 fine plus court costs, 15 days of community service and insurance surcharges.

The Governors' Highway Safety Association reports 6,721 pedestrians were killed on U.S. roads last year, a 4.8% increase from 2019, despite a drastic drop in miles driven because of the pandemic.

That works out to an average of 18 people struck and killed in the street while walking every day last year.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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