Commuters will hate NJ’s new traffic light (Opinion)
In 2010 NJ crosswalk laws changed. While it was meant to keep pedestrians safer, it did the opposite. Pedestrian fatalities only increased over the years. I think part of the reason is the law was misinterpreted to mean pedestrians always had the right of way no matter what, no matter where, no matter when.
I remember making a left in Linden onto Route 1 South. I had the green, and the corresponding crosswalk still had the solid hand. The pedestrian go signal hadn't come yet, but some old guy was belligerently walking out across Route 1 anyway. Of course he started yelling at me when he was in the wrong. Yes I yelled back, but it was like yelling at a dog expecting him to understand. Actually the dog probably would have gotten it better.
The change in the crosswalk law combined with the explosion of cell phones people tend to bury their attention in has turned New Jersey into a zombie pedestrian zone. People started crossing the street whenever and wherever and however they damn well pleased.
Now the DOT is conducting a two-week pilot program with a new type of traffic signal that has potential to go state-wide. Where Washington Rd. and Nassau St. cross in Princeton, a traffic signal has a button that when pressed will stop traffic in all four directions and allow a pedestrian exclusivity. For almost 40 seconds the only thing allowed to move is a person crossing the street. They chose this intersection because of a pedestrian fatality there in 2017 involving a cement truck.
After the two-week trial the DOT will make decisions about expanding this to other parts of the state. Which will be interesting. If you imagine this all over the place, what will a full 40 seconds of all traffic standing still whenever someone crosses a street mean? Are traffic engineers studying the delay impacts? New Jersey has some of the worst congestion and longest commutes in the country as is. I imagine the backups that will be added to this.
I've never had an issue crossing a street properly on a green light. If pedestrians can be aware of their surroundings and drivers can obey the existing laws, and if pedestrians and drivers can read each other, there shouldn't be an issue. For the driver who is so reckless as to not see a pedestrian legally crossing at a green light in a crosswalk, I don't see how a four way red light is going to change much. Isn't a driver that reckless pretty likely to ignore the red light too?
We'll see how this new red light goes in its trial period. New Jersey is famous for replacing common sense with yet more laws though, so I think we'll have more of these.
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