Rules of the road exist in order to prevent fatalities and serious injuries, but they still may not be top of mind for folks behind the wheel and crossing the street.

So a simple reminder can make a big difference. At least that's what was found by collaborative research from the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) and Rowan University, which looked at the impact of Street Smart NJ campaigns on pedestrian safety at intersections in eight New Jersey communities (Asbury Park, Garfield, Morris Plains, Newark, Princeton, Rutherford, Teaneck and Woodbridge).

Through video surveillance of the active intersections and surveys, both before the campaigns were launched and after, researchers found significant improvements in driver and pedestrian behavior, including:

  • A 60% decrease in vehicles failing to stop before turning right at a red signal or stop sign
  • A 45% reduction in vehicles running red lights or stop signs
  • A 40% reduction in vehicles failing to stop for people crossing
  • A 21% decrease in pedestrians crossing unsafely (against the signal or outside the crosswalk)

Street Smart NJ, created in 2013 as a program of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, uses signage to remind drivers and pedestrians of the laws that are being enforced and the best way to keep themselves safe. Messages for motorists include "obey speed limits" and "stop for pedestrians," while messaging for pedestrians includes "use crosswalks" and "heads up, phones down."

The program has grown from five pilot programs to more than 100 municipalities across the Garden State.

"The NJTPA asked us to examine the behavioral change of pedestrians and motorists through observational data at various high-risk intersections," said Mohammad Jalayer, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Rowan. "These types of measurements are important, as they allow agencies to better use their resources when deciding what programs to continue and how to continue them."

Street Smart was created in response to an unpleasant designation by the federal government for New Jersey and the City of Newark. They were deemed a "pedestrian focus" state and city due to their high pedestrian fatality and injury rates.

At nearly 30% in 2017, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, New Jersey ranked second in the nation for percentage of pedestrian fatalities with respect to total traffic fatalities.

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