Last year was the deadliest on New Jersey’s roads in the past decade.
The New Jersey State Police counted 603 fatal accidents resulting in 636 deaths in 2017. That’s almost 6 percent more deaths on the state’s roads last year than in 2016. It’s also higher than in each of the previous nine years. The most recent year with more traffic fatalities was 2007, when 724 people were killed in vehicular accidents. By comparison, the recent low was in 2013, when 542 people died. The number of fatalities has been rising ever since.
On average, 1.72 people died in traffic accidents each day last year.
State police have yet to finalize and analyze this data, but if recent trends are any indication, officials are likely to attribute at least some of the increase to distracted driving, though not the only cause. The proliferation of smart phones has coincided with the timing of the rise in traffic fatalities.
Still, the number of fatalities is lower than decades ago. The State Police Report on 2007 fatalities called the 724 registered that year a “near historic low.” During the 1980s, about 1,000 people died every year, with a high of 1,160 counted in 1981. It was not until 2008 that the number of fatalities dropped below 600 — to 590. Earlier state police reports attribute the drop in fatalities to greater enforcement and education efforts.
New Jersey has consistently had some of the least deadly highways in the nation. In 2016, the state had the fifth-lowest death rate compared with its population — 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people — and the sixth-lowest rate compared with miles driven: 0.78 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Fatal accidents occur on all types of roads, but typically highways and interstates with drivers travelling at higher speeds tend to be more dangerous.
These are the counties with the largest numbers of traffic fatalities in 2017:
1. Ocean County – 53 accidents resulting in 54 deaths
Route 70 was the site of nine accidents, with eight happening on the Garden State Parkway. Routes 9 and 88 had multiple fatalities. County Route 528 in Lakewood had four.
2. Burlington County — 47 accidents with 49 deaths
Interstates 95 and 295, and Routes 73 and 130 were all fatal hotspots.
3. Middlesex County — 44 accidents resulting in 28 fatalities
Highways with multiple accidents included Routes 1, 9, 18, 440, and both the Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike.
4. Monmouth County — 43 accidents with 46 deaths
In addition to the Parkway, a number of fatalities occurred on Routes 9, 18, 33, and 36.
5. Gloucester County — 43 accidents with 44 deaths
State routes 42, 45, 47, and 55 were the most likely to have fatalities.
5. (tied) Camden County — 40 accidents resulting in 44 fatalities
Routes 30 and 130, and the Turnpike were the scenes of multiple accidents.
7. Essex County — 40 accidents resulting in 41 deaths
Many fatalities occurred on local roads, with Routes 21 and 27 the sites of multiple accidents.
8. Atlantic County — 34 accidents with 36 fatalities
Routes 40 and 322, as well as the Atlantic City Expressway, were sites of multiple accidents.
9. Union County — 34 accidents resulting in 35 fatalities
Multiple accidents occurred on the Turnpike, Parkway, Interstate 78 and Routes 1 and 27.
10. Morris County — 27 accidents with 30 deaths
Nine died along Interstate 80; I-280 and I-287 also had multiple accidents.