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Does New Jersey law protect pedestrians from negligent drivers?

Readers may be surprised to learn that pedestrian injuries or deaths are the second largest category of motor vehicle accidents in New Jersey. The data, compiled by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, offers several theories for this alarming statistic.

First, features that make roads safer for motorists may actually have the opposite effect on pedestrian safety. Specifically, large medians and wide shoulders may be more difficult for pedestrians to cross, taking more time and increasing the chances for their exposure to a speeding motorist. 

State law offers several protections to pedestrians, such as a legal right-of-way at crosswalks. Motorists who fail to yield make face a $100 fine as well as jail time of up to 15 days. Motorists are also not allowed to pass other vehicles that have stopped for crossing pedestrians. Violating that law may result in the same penalties as failing to yield. Finally, state law also imputes a crosswalk at every intersection, regardless of whether one is actually painted there. Such an intersection is regarded as an unmarked crosswalk.

Depending on the speed of a vehicle that fails to yield, injuries or wrongful death may be a serious risk for pedestrians. State data indicates that vehicle-pedestrian collisions have an 85 percent fatality rate if the motorist was going 40 miles per hour or faster. 

In sum, the data suggests that a pedestrian cannot be too careful when crossing an intersection. The law may help deter negligent driving, but it cannot prevent all instances. However, if a motorist did fail to yield to a crossing pedestrian, the law will help the victim or the victim's surviving loved ones to bring a civil claim for negligence.

Source: New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, "Pedestrian Safety is a two-way street," updated May 15, 2015

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