Sometimes there's too much blame on those who drive in New Jersey. And I'm not just talking about those who live here, but those who visit as well.

We all know navigating Jersey's roads isn't easy. Perhaps for those of us who grew up here, it comes more naturally to think quickly on our feet while driving along our streets and highways.

And yes, out-of-state drivers tend to be more irritating to deal with since they don't quite understand the way New Jerseyans handle themselves behind the wheel. Of course, the same could be said about us when we drive across to our neighboring states.

With that said, there is one area we probably can all come to an agreement with. And this isn't necessarily a problem with those vising the Garden State, either. In fact, this problem is just as bad with our very own residents.

Composite image (File photo/Joe Votruba photo)
Composite image (File photo/Joe Votruba photo)

Before we dive into it, let's first talk about the problem of distracted driving. Whether it's looking at the phone or being fixated on something outside while behind the wheel, there's no doubt New Jersey deals with its fair share of distracted drivers.

Sometimes, drivers who aren't paying attention to what's in front of them might miss that a crosswalk is coming up ahead with people actively crossing the road. This could lead to a very serious situation if any of those pedestrians were to be hit.

In fact, New Jersey has a law that states you must stop for pedestrians within a crosswalk. And following this law should be a no-brainer. If someone's trying to cross at a designated point, we should drive with care and allow them to finish crossing before continuing along our way.

Crosswalk sign sign in downtown Toms River
Crosswalk sign sign in downtown Toms River (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)

In fact, New Jersey also has a law on the books requiring drivers to move over for pedestrians or bikers along a road at least four feet for safety. If that's not possible, then the driver must slow down and pass with care.

So far this all seems pretty straightforward. If anything should happen to a pedestrian, the driver is usually held accountable.

But what if the driver did nothing wrong and there was still an incident? Here's where the problem with pedestrians comes in.

(Onzeg, ThinkStock)
(Onzeg, ThinkStock)

Yes, drivers can get distracted. But just as dangerous is when pedestrians also get distracted. Or even worse is when pedestrians think they're invincible and can do whatever they want along a busy roadway.

Let's start with who distracted pedestrians are. The ones who either get locked in some sort of tunnel vision or who lose awareness of anything happening around them whatsoever.

Usually, the distraction is caused by one simple device. And here's a hint: That device is the same one that most drivers get distracted by.

Texting on a touch screen phone
Keith Bell, ThinkStock

Our phones are arguably one of the most distracting devices we own, and this problem goes beyond New Jersey's drivers and extends to those who walk along our roadways. In both cases, the results can be disastrous if something were to happen.

And just like driving, the person walking might not be paying attention to their surroundings while moving. Instead, the only thing they're locked on is whatever's currently displayed on their screen.

We witness this all the time along our roads. We're driving along and see someone glued to their phones when they shouldn't be.

On occasion, they might walk into an object like a garbage can or a lamp post. That would actually be a better outcome for such behavior over the alternative.


Sometimes, these individuals start to cross a road while still glued to their devices. Sometimes they might start crossing at a crosswalk but continue without checking to see if the road is clear of cars first.

As the driver, we're supposed to take extra care when approaching a crosswalk. But sometimes a driver might not see a pedestrian approach in enough time to stop completely.

Pedestrians have a responsibility to stop and check to make sure it's safe for them as well, but if they're distracted, they might overlook that fact.

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But it's not just at crosswalks this happens. This can also occur at random parts of a roadway.

The person walking might step right over the curb and continue into the road, only to be snapped out of their trans by a loud horn from an approaching vehicle. That's probably the most common type of distracted pedestrian, but there are certainly more things that can also grab their attention.

Regardless, distracted walking is one major problem with a select few that walk along our roadways.

Got a passion? Embrace it, advises cancer patient (Alex Caparros/Getty Images for Ironman)
Got a passion? Embrace it, advises cancer patient (Alex Caparros/Getty Images for Ironman)

And while we're on the topic, what about bikers who do the same thing? Staring at the phone in one hand while peddling with the other hand on the handlebars also seems to be an issue on the rise.

Is that text message really that important? It's bad enough that drivers do this, but you're so much more vulnerable as a pedestrian or a biker.

Plus, pedestrians and bikers at least have more options to stop and take care of business on their phones before moving on. It's stupid to risk your life, so please pay attention.

With all of this said, there is one other type of pedestrian issue that needs to be addressed. And this problem involves full awareness of what they're doing. Or at least, that's what it looks like.

Don't walk New York traffic sign on blurred background

Recently I was driving through a downtown area where the speed limit is only 25. I was approaching a traffic light with crosswalks, and I had the green.

But right before I was about to go through the intersection, this group of teens approached the light and just continued to cross, even though they had the red with the don't walk hand displayed.

Luckily, I was far enough back to stop in time, but it was a shorter stop than I would've preferred. I think there were five of them, and some of them looked my way but continued crossing anyway without any care whatsoever that they were in the wrong.

A car that was traveling in the opposing direction had to stop even shorter than me to allow this group of brainless teens to cross. They got really lucky we were able to stop as the end result could've turned out very differently.

Chris Hondros, Getty Images

That incident reminded me of when New Jersey first implemented the requirement for drivers to stop when someone was within a crosswalk, and how some pedestrians seemed to feel emboldened and just walk into the road whenever they wanted.

Perhaps New Jersey needs to start teaching safe pedestrian practices to those who feel the rules don't apply to them.

So along with those who are distracted are also those who could care less what the rules are and feel they have the right of way no matter what. Two situations highlight why it's not always the driver who's in the wrong.

Runner feet and shoes

It's a frustrating situation and one that law enforcement shouldn't be afraid to address if they witness it themselves. So if you're guilty of any of the above, please do us a favor and pay attention.

Yes, drivers also need to take care while on the roads, but it also doesn't mean you don't have any responsibility for the safety of others.

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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