Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Elizabeth, Union Township, Union County join statewide pedestrian safety campaign

A new Street Smart NJ pedestrian safety education campaign in partnership with the City of Elizabeth, Union Township, and Union County kicked off today, aimed at changing unsafe behavior and reducing pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes at the intersections of Magie Avenue and Keats Avenue in Union and Magie Avenue and Monmouth Road in Elizabeth. The campaign will help to educate drivers and pedestrians alike about the safe use of roadways and is part of the broader set of initiatives to make the community safer.

The two focus intersections for this campaign were selected due to eight motor vehicle crashes between October 2020 and September 2022, at Magie Avenue and Monmouth Road and a member of the Beis Hillel congregation was fatally struck by a motor vehicle as he crossed the intersection of Magie Avenue and Keats Avenue in March 2022.

EZ Ride, the Transportation Management Association that serves Union County, will manage the local campaign and will work with the municipality, county, schools, and community partners to educate and distribute safety information. Large educational signs will be displayed at the intersections, and local and County police will enforce traffic and pedestrian laws as part of the campaign.

“By enhancing public awareness about safe driving and walking, we contribute to creating safer roads for everyone. Together, we have the power to make a positive impact. Let's remember to Drive Smart, Walk Smart, and Be Street Smart," NJTPA Trustee and Union County Commissioner Bette Jane Kowalski said at a press conference on Nov. 28 to launch the campaign at the Muslim Community Center of Union County, 964-984 Magie Ave., Elizabeth.

“We need your help," Frank Neary, Strategic Development Manager at the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, said. "We need you all to talk to your family and friends about what you see on the road every day. We need you to avoid contributing to those behaviors yourself. Safe roads require everyone to do their part, and I mean everyone.”

Steve Dunn of Union County Connects is an Elizabeth firefighter who rides his bike to work on that road and pushed for something to be done after the man was killed on Magie Avenue last March. “When someone dies on our roads it not only cuts a life short, but the pain has a ripple effect for the families and communities that I don’t think can really be quantified by any objective measure,” he said. “I ride by this road every day on my way to work and I think about this guy every time that I do. I think it has a real effect on our first responder community as well and we need to acknowledge that and prevent more needless deaths.”

Every year about 25 to 30 people are killed on roads in Union County. "I believe that I will live to see a year that no one dies on our roads,” Dunn said.

Other speakers included Lisa Lee, Director, EZ Ride; Union Township Mayor Manuel Figueiredo; Union Township Superintendent of Schools Gerry Benaquista; Matt Glackin, Director of Security at Elizabeth Public Schools; Christina Moreira of Elizabeth Parents & Students Care; and, Steve Schnipper of Congregation Beis Hillel, formerly Elmora Hills Minyan.

Street Smart NJ, initiated in 2013 and managed by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), is a statewide collaborative effort between public, private, and non-profit organizations. The campaign reminds people that everyone has a role in making streets safer. Drivers must obey speed limits and stop for people crossing; people walking or biking must use crosswalks (marked and unmarked) and cross with the signals; and everyone must avoid distractions. Street Smart NJ is one of many initiatives working to reach zero pedestrian fatalities.

Pedestrian safety is a concern nationwide but it is particularly important in New Jersey. On average, one pedestrian is killed every two days in New Jersey, and 12 are injured daily. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, New Jersey ranked 18th in the US in pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people, and pedestrians comprised 30 percent of the 699 traffic fatalities in New Jersey in 2021 -- far more than the national average of 17 percent.

Drivers must avoid distractions, stop for people crossing, and slow down for safety. Pedestrians should use crosswalks or cross at intersections and wait for the walk signal or green light before stepping onto the road. These simple actions will save lives.

Anyone interested in helping to promote the Street Smart NJ message in Union County should contact Lee at 201-939-4242 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Learn more at The campaign is also on Facebook and X (@njstreetsmart).