Street Smart - it’s a common theme in Hudson County and something that our residents are known for “street smarts.” But there’s a different kind of street smarts that not enough residents exhibit in their daily life, both as drivers and pedestrians. In recent years, traffic-related deaths in Hudson County have increased. Something must be done to fix this problem.

Recently, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and other Hudson County officials joined with police officials from Bayonne, Jersey City, North Bergen, Union City and West New York to kick off the Street Smart Hudson County Campaign along Kennedy Boulevard in each of the municipalities. This month local police departments in each municipality along the John F. Kennedy Boulevard corridor will increase enforcement of traffic laws for motorists and pedestrians. In addition, the Hudson County Transportation Management Association (TMA) will be along the corridor distributing information to residents on street safety for drivers and pedestrians.

The campaign is a part of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority’s (NJTPA) Street Smart NJ Campaign, a public education, awareness and behavioral change campaign designed to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety throughout northern New Jersey. Since its inception in 2013, more than 60 communities have participated in the campaign. Street Smart NJ educates drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists through media, as well as targeted enforcement. As a part of their marketing efforts, Street Smart NJ reminds pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists to “Check Your Vital Signs.”

Hudson County is home to some of our nation’s most walkable municipalities. Pedestrians must also keep safety in mind as they are walking. While elementary, these safety measures are important in keeping safe. When crossing the street, cross at corners and intersections and use marked crosswalks where available. Also, use pedestrian buttons when available and only cross on the “Walk” signal. No matter what age you are, remember the basics - look left, right and then left before crossing the street. While a pedestrian may have a “Walk” signal, an inattentive driver may not notice a pedestrian crossing, especially if they are attempting to turn right on red. It is a safe practice to always try and make eye contact with drivers when crossing the street. Use sidewalks when available or walk facing traffic in areas without sidewalks. Finally, pedestrians are reminded to avoid distractions, especially when crossing the street. Put the phone down before crossing the street- “Heads Up, Phones Down”!

While pedestrian safety is a huge consideration, police are enforcing pedestrian laws. Pedestrians must obey pedestrian signals and use crosswalks at signalized intersections. Failure to obey each law carries a $54 fine.

For drivers, please be alert for pedestrians while behind the wheel. Slow down and obey posted speed limits. When approaching marked crosswalks, slow down and stop for pedestrians. Before turning right on red, stop and look for pedestrians and bicyclists. Under New Jersey law, vehicles must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Failure to stop is not only dangerous, but it’s also illegal and can result in a $200 fine and 2 points on your license.

Distracted driving is dangerous and preventable. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed as the result of distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). What is distracted driving? Any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from driving including talking on a cell phone, texting, eating or drinking, talking to other passengers in your vehicle, or adjusting a navigation system, radio or other entertainment device.

Recently, New Jersey enacted the strongest distracted driving laws in the nation. Citing an increase in accidents by 8 percent from 2015 to 2016, the State determined that more effort was needed to reduce the number of motorists texting while driving. The new law allows for primary enforcement of cell phone use --meaning that if a police officer views a driver using a cell phone, “they do not need to observe another violation” in order to pull the motorist over. Drivers are still allowed (and encouraged) to use hands-free devises. In addition, the new laws increased the penalties for cell phone use while driving: First offense is a $400 fine; second offense is a $600 fine; third offense is an $800 fine plus a 90-day license suspension and points on the driver’s license. So how can you help? Be Street Smart: Heads Up, Phones Down!

Bicyclists are also encouraged to use Street Smart practices while riding. Bicyclists are reminded to always wear a helmet as well as ride with traffic while obeying all signs and traffic signals. In marked crosswalks, stop for pedestrians- they have the right of way. Also, use hand signals to alert motorists of your intentions to turn. Ride in a straight line and make sure you are at least a car door’s width away from any parked cars. When riding near buses, be careful- they are MUCH bigger than you and have less of a sight distance. And just as in walking and driving, avoid distractions such as texting while riding- remember that you are a part of the road too.

For bicyclists looking to learn more about cycling safety and rules of the road, the Hudson TMA will again be offering Traffic Safety101 Savvy Cyclist: Urban Biking & Safety Skills in 2018. This program is helpful for bicyclists at all levels. Follow the Hudson TMA or the HCIA on social media for information on the 2018 classes!

As winter approaches and days get shorter, it is important for everyone to take extra safety measures whether driving, walking or biking. Drivers should be prepared for sunglare - wear sunglasses and make sure that your windshield is clean to improve visibility. Due to the loss of daylight hours, there will be more people walking and cycling at dusk and in the dark so drivers should stay alert. Pedestrians should wear lighter clothing or reflectors to make sure that they are seen by motorists. Bicyclists should install a light on their bicycle for use at night when visibility is poor.

Stay safe out there Hudson County and remember to be Street Smart!


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