Don’t text yourself into a traffic stat

distracted_webYou’ve heard of distracted driving. How about distracted walking? We had our first encounter with the latter a couple of weeks ago, when a young man, gazing intently at his cellphone, ignored the red light and stepped off the curb into a usually busy intersection. Luckily, traffic was light at the time, or he might no longer be around.

We had seen pedestrians texting and bumping into other people on the sidewalk, but seeing this texter being so totally oblivious to the fact that he was crossing a street was, shall we say, a wake-up call. It’s one more thing drivers need to be aware of. Because the texters appear to be aware of nothing except what’s on the screen.

Thus, we were pleased to learn of a new pedestrian safety campaign launched by the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the Police Officers Traffic Association. The initiative was announced last week by Sheriff Michael Saudino and will include not only a public education effort but also a two-week enforcement campaign.

Reducing distracted driving/ walking will be just part of the effort. There will be emphasis on all pedestrian- related rules as they apply to both motorists and walkers.

From Oct. 18 through the 31st Bergen County police agencies will be deploying cops in crosswalks and as decoy pedestrians to enforce the laws.

In addition, signs and message boards reading “Drive Now, Text Later” and “Walk Now, Text Later” will be posted throughout the county.

Billboards, pamphlets and school presentations will also be featured.

In announcing the initiative, Saudino cited some statistics:

• In 2014, there were 39 motor vehicle fatalities in Bergen County, 24 of which were pedestrians. This accounts for nearly 62% of all fatalities countywide, which is double the state average.

• In the last 10 years, more than 1,500 pedestrians were killed in New Jersey.

• In the last five years, there were approximately 28,000 motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians in the state, an average of 5,600 per year.

• October/November/December are statistically the top three months for pedestrian accidents.

Note, that only the first stat applies specifically to Bergen County.

Pedestrian safety is a statewide issue.

– Karen Zautyk 

Karen Zautyk | Observer Correspondent