Posted Friday, October 26th, 2018

Grassroots Public Awareness Effort Aims to Change Pedestrian and Driver Behavior

Encouraging pedestrian safety, the Morris Plains Police Department went undercover on Thursday, identifying distracted drivers through a spotter exercise. The initiative was held as part of Morris Plains’ Street Smart October campaign, which includes a significant focus on the intersection in front of the Morris Plains Train Station.Morris Plains Joins the Street Smart Campaign -- Pedestrian Safety and Distracted Driving Targeted

Street Smart is an effort, led by nonprofit TransOptions, that combines grassroots public awareness, educational outreach and high-visibility law enforcement to change behaviors as they relate to pedestrian safety.

It has organized previous Morris County Street Smart campaigns in Morristown and Boonton, as well as neighboring New Providence and Hackettstown.

During the Morris Plains spotter exercise, officers looked for motorists who were distracted while driving. They would then radio to another officer in a patrol car to stop the vehicle and either give the driver a warning or ticket. Officers also focused on pedestrians crossing the street correctly during this exercise.

“Conducting a spotter exercise in Morris Plains during the Street Smart campaign allows us to interact with the people who travel through the borough to make sure everyone is following the rules of the road,” said Morris Plains Police Chief Jason Kohn. “Our main priority is to make Morris Plains a safe area to travel through for motorists and pedestrians alike, therefore reducing pedestrian related crashes and fatalities.”

Morris Plains Joins the Street Smart Campaign -- Pedestrian Safety and Distracted Driving TargetedStreet Smart’s “check your vital signs” slogan emphasizes safe travel roles and responsibilities to both pedestrians and motorists alike. The vital signs are displayed on tip cards, posters, banners and street signs throughout the community and in local businesses during the campaign as a visual reminder for drivers and pedestrians.

TransOptions, a non-profit transportation organization, is leading the Street Smart effort in Morris Plains, with the help of Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, (CAIT).

“We are excited to add Morris Plains to our growing list of Street Smart campaign participants in northwestern New Jersey,” said TransOptions President Dan Callas. “We want to make sure that pedestrians feel safe to walk in the downtown area, and that everyone is obeying the rules of the road to enhance quality of life in Morris Plains.”

From 2012 to 2016, there have been 14 pedestrian-related crashes in Morris Plains, including one fatal crash. Of the pedestrians struck, 50 percent were crossing at a marked crosswalk, while 45.4 percent of these crashes were a result of driver’s distractions, according to data from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety and Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation.Morris Plains Joins the Street Smart Campaign -- Pedestrian Safety and Distracted Driving Targeted

Pedestrian safety is an ongoing challenge in New Jersey. In 2017, 187 pedestrians died as a result of pedestrian-vehicle crashes, according to the most recent data available from the New Jersey State Police. From 2013 through 2017, 828 pedestrians were killed on New Jersey’s roads and more than 17,000 were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On an annual basis, nearly 5,000 pedestrians are injured and 150 killed in motor vehicle crashes statewide. New Jersey’s pedestrian fatality rate is double the national average. New Jersey ranked 17th in the nation in pedestrian fatalities in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal government has designated New Jersey a “focus” state – placing an extra emphasis on aiding the state in combating its higher-than-average pedestrian fatality rate and providing funding for this campaign.

For more information on Street Smart, visit TransOptions.org/street-smart, or call TransOptions at (973) 267-7600. TransOptions is the transportation management association for Northwest New Jersey that delivers programs to improve mobility, environment and overall quality of life of all residents and commuters.