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Pedestrians Beware, Especially in Low-Income Areas

New Jersey's pedestrians have a disadvantage in an encounter with a motor vehicle. An example of this involved a 29-year-old victim hit by a car as she stepped into a Newark intersection while the light was green. The vehicle turned the corner and struck her, sending her to the hospital for dozens of stitches and a broken jaw that had to be surgically reconstructed. She was fortunate to escape additional injuries and to have not been killed. The driver sped away from the scene, never stopping to see how badly she was hurt.

A Link Between Pedestrian Accidents and Income?

A recent New Jersey Public Radio report notes a correlation between poverty and pedestrian-car accidents; the poorer the area, the more pedestrians are hit by cars. The above-mentioned victim was one of about 500 people hit every year in Newark, one of the least affluent areas in New Jersey.

Car ownership is beyond the financial reach of many low-income people, forcing them to rely on public transportation or walking as their primary means of travel. Besides spending more time as pedestrians, low-income people tend to live in poorer neighborhoods that lack basic infrastructure updates - such as traffic lights, added police patrols and designated pedestrian crosswalks - that would help keep pedestrians safe.

Taking Steps to Protect Newark's Pedestrians

The federal government has designated Newark as a pedestrian safety focus city, one of two dozen in the country with the dubious distinction of having an unfortunately high level of pedestrians struck by vehicles annually. With the help of federal funding, the city has committed $27 million to improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety this year.

There is a hitch in the plan, however. Some major Newark roads, including the notorious intersection of Fourth Street and Park Avenue, which has been the site of three injury-causing pedestrian accidents in the last 18 months - are under the jurisdiction of Essex County, not the city of Newark. That intersection sees a high volume of public transportation traffic, including both bus and light rail stops, but no pedestrian crossing signals. The county is also committed to improving the safety at dangerous intersections, but is still trying to find the funds necessary for the project.

While traffic control and infrastructure improvement projects move forward, pedestrian safety is still an issue. Newark city officials are committed to improving public safety by educating pedestrians about proper walking "etiquette." Common-sense actions like looking, pausing to look both ways before entering a crosswalk and wearing bright or reflective clothing when walking at night could go a long way to help prevent accidents. The city also hopes to add additional red light cameras, hopefully deterring drivers who tend to ignore traffic signals.

A person who is injured while walking on New Jersey streets and highways may be able to recover financial compensation if someone was negligent. A personal injury attorney can provide a consultation and advice to help obtain the maximum benefit.

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