Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Tim Eustace to create a council within the Department of Transportation to help improve pedestrian safety in New Jersey was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.
"New Jersey, because of its high density, has one of the biggest causes for concern when it comes to pedestrian safety," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "Whether it's urban, suburban or rural, every area of our state has its own unique set of issues that threatens pedestrian safety. This council will be tasked with finding solutions to make New Jersey a more pedestrian-friendly state."
"For a variety of reasons, older adults and children are most at risk for pedestrian injuries and deaths," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "It's my hope that this council will examine the causes and find ways to prevent tragedies and minimize injuries to some of our most vulnerable residents."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4,743 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2012, and another 76,000 pedestrians were injured.
The 18-member Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Council created under the bill (A-1461) would advise the governor, legislature and Department of Transportation on policies, programs, research and priorities to advance bicycling and walking as safe and viable forms of transportation and recreation.
"Sadly, New Jersey has a disproportionate number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities compared to the national average," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This begs for greater attention and it's my hope that this council will produce workable solutions to help improve public safety."
"Pedestrian safety is a two-way street, pun intended," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Motorists and pedestrians both bear responsibility, as do law enforcement and government. We need to find ways to work together to better improve safety throughout our state."
The council would consist of: the division administrator of the Division of the Federal Highway Administration; the commissioner of the Department of Transportation; the chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission; the director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety; the commissioner of the Department of Health; the executive director of New Jersey Transit; the manager of the Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs; the executive director of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority; the executive director of the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization; the executive director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; two members of the public who are experts in transportation, to be appointed by the governor; a member of the public, to be appointed by the Senate president, who represents an organization that works to address issues facing senior citizens; a member of the public, to be appointed by the Assembly Speaker upon the recommendation of AARP; two members of the Senate; and two members of the Assembly.
The council would issue its findings, conclusions and recommendations in a report to the governor and the legislature no later than one year following its first meeting.
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.