Stranded at a Crosswalk? Your Long Wait Is Over.
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If you have ever been forced to wait at a crosswalk as cars and trucks speed past until some kind soul finally stops to allow you to cross … and then wait even longer until the opposing traffic stops, take heart. Your wait is over. Or at least it should be shortened.
A bill requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks or waiting on the curb was passed earlier this year by the New Jersey Legislature. Bill A1329, a carryover from legislation introduced in the 2008 session, was introduced and passed into law in January 2010. The new law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians who are in or near crosswalks, punishable by a fine of $200 and up to 15 days of community service. The repealed law only required motorists to yield right-of-way to pedestrians who are already in the crosswalk, subject to lesser fines and consequences.
The new law was not passed without controversy. Even before Bill A1329 was enacted in the first weeks of the 2010 session, other bills were proposed that addressed the penalty provisions of Bill A1329 and made other small changes to the language of the new law. Bill A1329 co-sponsor Jon Bramnick and others introduced Assembly Bill A772 to amend the penalty provisions of R.S. 39:4-36, and that bill currently awaits committee action.
As enacted, the new crosswalk law does not change the pedestrian’s obligation to exercise due care for his or her own safety, nor does it change the pedestrian’s duty to use marked crosswalks or yield right-of-way to all passing vehicles. Funds collected from fines for violations of the new crosswalk law are turned over to the State Treasurer for deposit in the Pedestrian Safety Enforcement and Education Fund.
The new crosswalk law was inspired by New Jersey pedestrian traffic fatality rates, which have remained stubbornly high over the past few years even as overall traffic fatalities have declined.
Public reaction to the bill has been mixed. In a report by The Press of Atlantic City, some pedestrians interviewed about the new law were happy to see action on this issue, while others expressed concern that until more drivers are aware of the new law, pedestrians may put themselves in harm’s way by relying on drivers to stop at crosswalks. Many believe that the law will be thoroughly tested this summer as tourists flock to the Jersey Shore.
Some business owners also expressed opposition to the new law, saying that it could be dangerous for pedestrians, especially tourists unfamiliar with local street traffic patterns, and might hinder traffic on beach town streets where pedestrian tourist traffic typically swells in the summers.
Clearly, the new law’s sponsors intend to take action on pedestrian traffic safety in an effort to curb pedestrian fatalities and crosswalk wait times. Currently, most law enforcement officers are giving warnings for all but the most egregious violations of the crosswalk law. But after a full summer of consistent and ongoing enforcement builds public consciousness about the crosswalk law, pedestrians should be able to cross New Jersey streets, confident that motorists will stop and allow them to proceed safely.