Safety campaign tells drivers and pedestrians to be ‘Street Smart’

Pedestrian safety is a serious problem in New Jersey. Last year alone, 184 people died in pedestrian-vehicle crashes, according to the New Jersey State Police.

“In some cases I think to myself if only the person wasn’t texting and walking, if only the person looked both ways before crossing at the corner,” said Hackensack Medical Center trauma surgeon Dr. Saraswati Dayal.

“People are distracted. People are not slowing down for pedestrians. We unfortunately in the last few years have had two crossing guards struck by people. One was seriously hurt. One was hurt a little bit, but it’s really unacceptable,” said Garfield City Manager Thomas Dutch.

Now the city of Garfield is joining the ranks of 74 other cities and towns by participating in a monthlong safety campaign called “Street Smart NJ”

The statewide campaign focuses on five core messages: drivers are reminded to stop for pedestrians and obey speed limits; pedestrians are urged to use crosswalks and wait for the walk sign; and the fifth message — “heads up, phones down” — is for everyone.

“We at the Garfield Police Department have been planning this street smart pedestrian safety campaign for some time,” said Garfield Police Chief Raymond Kovac. “Tragically though, it comes after our community lost one of our residents in a fatal crash last week.

On Sept. 17, 42-year-old Giovanni Rivera was walking along McArthur Avenue when he was struck and killed by a driver. His death is a reminder of how just a few miles over the speed limit can mean the difference between life and death.

A campaign video demonstrates the result of a driver breaking suddenly for a pedestrian at the same point, at 25 miles per hour and at 40 miles per hour. According to the campaign, a person struck at 40 miles per hour has an 85 percent chance of dying, while a person struck at 20 miles per hour has a 95 percent chance of living.

The city says part of the problem is that pedestrians rely on drivers to stop for them.

“Now, you have ten-year-old, eleven-year-old, twelve-year-old kids walking around with earbuds, looking down at a phone, not paying attention and getting to a crosswalk or going out into a street and not looking or hearing,” said Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, who’s also a board member of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.

Police officers will also be handing out pedestrian safety information and reminding people who are driving and walking to be safe and to look out for other travelers when using the roads.