NJ Transit targets pedestrian safety after 10th death this year on train tracks
Warning bells, whistles and horns used to be enough to keep people out of the way of speeding trains.
But now that the majority of the population has the whole world at their fingertips in the form of a smartphone, keeping the public safe is not as simple.
NJ Transit has been using National Transportation Safety Month to publicize the perils of being anywhere near tracks or traffic without full awareness.
Ten people lost their lives so far this year on NJ Transit rail tracks, according to the agency. There were 25 "trespasser fatalities" in 2015, the agency said.
"People's attention is focused on what's on the screen in front of them or what they're hearing in their headphones while they're looking at the screen, so it's doubly distracting," Dennis Martin, NJ Transit's interim executive director, told New Jersey 101.5.
At least some type of safety measure is in place at every railroad crossing in the state.
Martin noted pedestrians can also present problems for buses. Distracted by social media and the web, commuters are crossing streets "against red lights," not fully aware of the surrounding traffic.
Earlier this month, NJ Transit set up a "Distracted Olympics" event in Secaucus in which participants wore glasses that would impair their peripheral vision, mirroring the impact of looking down at one's phone and not paying attention to the world around them. An obstacle course forced them to navigate a mini maze while avoiding moving objects.
"It looks simple, standing there watching other people do it, but when they actually did it they realized how consuming that handheld device can be," Martin said.
On top of special events geared toward pedestrian safety, Martin said, NJ Transit has a team of employees devoted to educating students near major crossings about the issue. The program reached approximately 12,000 students last year.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at Dino.Flammia@townsquaremedia.com