Crash Demonstration Kicks Off Pedestrian Safety Campaign in LBI

VIDEO: Police demonstrate crash simulation; pedestrian safety campaign kicking off

Police demonstrate stopping distance between a car traveling 25 m.p.h. with a car traveling 35 m.p.h. (Video: Daniel Nee)
Police demonstrate stopping distance between a car traveling 25 m.p.h. with a car traveling 35 m.p.h. (Video: Daniel Nee)
For Long Beach Township Police Lt. Paul Vereb, pedestrian safety is personal.

For a period of days in 1987, nobody had heard from his brother. The family, especially his mother, was concerned, so Vereb began calling hospitals to see if something had happened.

Indeed, it had. His brother was checked in as a John Doe at University Hospital in Newark, in a coma after being hit by a car.

"He was in really bad shape," said Vereb, announcing a new pedestrian safety initiative kicking off this week in Long Beach Township. "He ended being in a coma for approximately seven years until he eventually succumbed to his injuries. My family went through a lot of agony and hardships. I was a new officer in 1987, and it took a lot out of me going up there. Also, being a newlywed of two years, it put a lot of stress on my marriage and family life."

Vereb's story is one that hits home on Long Beach Island, where there have been 13 pedestrian crashes between 2009 and 2012, one of which was fatal.

But state and local officials are trying to make things safer this summer, when Ocean County's population swells from about 580,000 to 1.2 million.

The Street Smart NJ campaign is an education and public awareness campaign that urges motorists and pedestrians to practice safe measures that, often, are rooted in common sense.

The campaign's "Vital Signs" banner advises drivers to make sure they are obeying speed limits, stopping for pedestrians in marked crosswalks, while urging pedestrians to wait for walk signals or green lights before moving into a road, use crosswalks and simply look to make sure cars can see them and will not be surprised by a pedestrian entering the roadway.

At Wednesday's introduction to the campaign, Long Beach Township police officers simulated the risks pedestrians are faced with in accidents. A Crown Victoria police car was able to stop in about 25 feet when traveling 25 m.p.h., but even when the driver slammed on his brakes, kicking up smoke at 35 m.p.h., the dummy was sent into the air and flown about 10 feet down the pavement.

"Even in this relaxed and fun setting, travel safety must be a top priority for drivers and pedestrians alike," said Freeholder Joseph Vicari, who joined members of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority in kicking off the campaign, which is funded through state grants.

Street Smart NJ, the education program, will be publicized on Long Beach Island this summer through outdoor advertising, radio public service announcements, Internet advertising as well as street signage, window decals, tip cards – and even on church bulletin boards. The organizers have also launched a website. The program focuses on education and public awareness rather than police "stings," as municipalities have tried in the past. Officers, however, will be continuing to enforce pedestrian laws on all sides.

Previously, the program has seen success in North Jersey, where it was launched in Jersey City, Newark, Hackettstown and Woodbridge. New Jersey is considered a "focus state" by federal transportation officials because it ranks 14th in the nation in pedestrian accidents – 13,000 total between 2009 and 2011, including 402 fatal accidents. That translated to one death every 2.5 days and 14 injuries daily.

In Long Beach Township, the campaign will target males between the ages of 20 and 59. That group accounted for not only the majority of drivers involved in pedestrian accidents, but the majority of pedestrians as well.

Of Long Beach Township's accidents, the majority, 64 percent, occurred outside of marked crosswalks, where pedestrians did not have the right of way. Driver inattention contributed to half the accidents, while 38 percent of the accidents resulted from a driver's failure to yield.

But on the island, yielding to a pedestrian can be a tricky proposition – especially on Long Beach Boulevard, which includes five lanes and has a speed limit of 35 m.p.h. Drivers have complained that they have to take their eyes off the road to see if a pedestrian is about to walk out onto the roadway, and pedestrians have said that while drivers who see them may yield, opposing traffic or motorists in the outside lanes cannot see them, and keep driving. Then there are pedestrians who have been seen crossing against red lights, or cars abruptly stopping at green lights to illegally allow pedestrians to cross.

The Street Smart campaign addresses issues from both sides of the aisle, its organizers said.

Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini said he is continuing to lobby state officials to make changes to the pedestrian crossing law in New Jersey, possibly by limiting it to two-lane roads which have a 25 m.p.h. speed limit.

"It's common sense," said Mancini. If you see vehicles coming up at 35 miles per hour, don't walk out."

Mancini said the township has aggressively sought grants to help with pedestrian safety measures, with Vereb leading the charge. In past years, Vereb has focused on bicycle safety, raising funds to give out bicycle helmets and giving prizes to children who wear them.

"I've dedicated the last 27 years of my career to try and help people not have to go through that," he said, of his brother's coma and death. "As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the most emotional things I've ever gone through."
suz June 18, 2014 at 08:48 PM
I so agree...pedestrians have to be responsible, as well. Some just walk out into the crosswalks and take for granted that the cars will, and can, just stop. Just go thru Princeton...they just walk right out and don't look! When I am on LBI, I see the same scenario. Yes, as a driver, I should and am aware, but I can't stop on a dime! Give some of that responsibility to the people in those crosswalks!
OLD BLACK TOM June 19, 2014 at 11:32 PM
suz does u likes black mens?


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