In an effort to curb a growing number of accidents, Morristown police plan to crack down on motorists who fail to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Morristown police, responding to crosswalk accidents, plan ticket blitz

 

Police Chief Pete Demnitz admitted the statistics surprised him.

Since the start of 2013, Morristown has seen 49 accidents involving motorists and pedestrians, including a fatality last year near Morristown Medical Center.

stop for crosswalks yieldPerhaps even more surprising, he told the town council on Tuesday, was his finding that pedestrians were at fault almost half the time.

In the last month, at least three pedestrians–including a Morris Township committeeman –have been struck by cars that did not stop when they were in marked crosswalks.  Mayor Tim Dougherty asked the Chief to crunch the numbers.

As a result, police will issue warnings for the next month to motorists who fail to stop for people in crosswalks.  After that, tickets will flow. Penalties may include $200 fines plus court costs, two points on your driver’s license, 15 days of community service and insurance surcharges.

In 2010 a state law that had required motorists to yield for people in crosswalks was changed to require a full stop.

Meanwhile, pedestrians who fail to observe crossing signals, or who fail to yield to motorists away from marked crosswalks, can be fined $54.

Chief Demnitz said academic research suggests that prosecuting jaywalkers won’t change such behavior, however, and he warned council members to brace for irate calls from the public if the town presses him to aggressively ticket pedestrians.

Spikes in jaywalking tickets have angered some groups in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to end his city’s “epidemic” of traffic fatalities.

“I don’t believe going after jaywalkers is the way to go,” said Chief Demnitz, even though egregious examples are plentiful in Morristown. “It’s culture. It’s very disturbing. I saw a woman with a child in a carriage not using a crosswalk.”

The Chief cited another incident in which a woman was struck because she bolted onto the street from between two parked cars to hail a cab.

“People step and look, when they’re supposed to look and step,” he said, noting an incident years ago where someone was hit by a train.

The Mayor said he was driving up South Street during the evening rush and was dismayed to see a woman with a three-year-old boy attempting to cross two lanes of traffic instead of walking 30 yards to a crosswalk.

“I’m hoping the public will hear this, and do the right thing,” Mayor Dougherty said.

SAFETY TIPS

The state Department of Law and Public Safety offers these do’s and don’ts:

Pedestrians:

  • Always cross at corners, within marked crosswalks where available.
  • If crossing in other locations, yield the right of way to vehicles. Failure to obey the law carries a $54 fine (court costs additional; C.39:4-32, 33)
  • Look left, right and left again before crossing. Watch for turning cars.
  • Always walk facing traffic.
  • Obey traffic signals, especially “Walk/Don’t Walk.”
  • Remain alert! Don’t assume that cars are going to stop.
  • Wear reflective clothing when walking at night.
  • Stay sober. Walking while impaired greatly increases your chances of being struck.

Motorists:

  • Stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Failure to stop carries a $200 (court costs additional) fine, a 2 point license penalty, 15 days community service, and insurance surcharges. (C.39:4-36)
  • Watch for pedestrians when turning right on red.
  • Obey speed limits.
  • Do not block or park in crosswalks.
  • Keep your windshield clean for maximum visibility.
  • Be alert for pedestrian at all times.
  • Children and senior citizens are at a higher risk of being struck by a motor vehicle. Special emphasis must be made to educate children and seniors about the importance of walking safely.

 Children:

  • Cross at intersections only.
  • Never cross from in-between parked cars.
  • Before crossing, look left, right and left again and listen for traffic.
  • Always walk facing traffic.
  • Wear light colored or reflective clothing at night.
  • If there is no sidewalk available, walk as far off the roadway as possible on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals.

Seniors:

  • Walk on sidewalks and cross only at corners, within marked crosswalks where available.
  • If crossing in other locations, yield the right of way to vehicles. Failure to obey the law carries a $54 fine (court costs additional; C.39:4-32, 33)
  • Always walk facing traffic.
  • Wear bright-colored or reflective clothing, especially at night.
  • Look left, right and left again before crossing and be on the lookout for turning vehicles.
  • Make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of a vehicle.
  • Learn the proper use of “Walk/Don’t Walk” signals.
  • Use the buddy system. Walk and cross with others when possible.
  • If possible do not walk at night or during bad weather such as snow, rain or ice.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The council approved a $6.4 million bond ordinance to refund about 15 percent of the town’s debt. The interest on the new bonds is just over 1 percent, compared with 3.75 percent that Morristown had been paying, said town Administrator Michael Rogers.  The difference will save taxpayers about $209,000 by 2019, he said.

Since 2005, the town has whittled its debt from $110 million to $33 million, the administrator said.

Mayor Dougherty and Council President Rebecca Feldman also said they plan to honor the state champion Morristown High School hockey team at a future council meeting. Similar honors for the team are anticipated from the Morris Township Committee.

“This was a great win for Morristown hockey,” said the Mayor, who works for the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center and was there on Sunday for the Colonials’ 1-0 title win against Ramsey. “It was a terrific job that team did winning it with 33 seconds to go.”

Here are some highlights from Morristown High’s biggest hockey game ever:

 

 



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