Safer Streets May Be On the Horizon
Currently, 42 states in our union have laws that prevent drivers from crowding bicyclists as they pass them. Soon, that number may increase to 43.
At the beginning of July, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would require drivers to move over a lane when passing bicyclists, scooters, or pedestrians on the road. Where no second lane is available for them to move into, drivers would have to give bicyclists at least 4 feet of space while passing; if even that is not possible, they must slow down to 25 mph. The bill, similar to New Jersey’s “move over” law meant to protect first responders, was overwhelmingly popular: Only one senator voted against it. Now, safety advocates including our team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. urge Governor Murphy to sign the bill into law.
The Pandemic Centered Concerns About Road Safety
Most of our cities are car-centric to the point where infrastructure decisions may endanger those who choose to travel via bicycle or scooter or on foot. Though advocates have been fighting for New Jersey to pass this type of protective measure for a decade, the pandemic added new urgency to the situation.
Last year, despite a decrease in miles driven, pedestrian fatalities in New Jersey increased by 9%. Without access to gyms or parks, many Americans pivoted to exercising—or just getting out of their homes for a bit—by taking walks, jogs, or bike rides. Nationwide, pedestrian fatalities reached a five-year high; New Jersey, with 191 traffic deaths, had the eighth-highest number of fatalities in the nation.
According to advocates, the danger is not evenly distributed across our communities. Pedestrians and bicyclists are more likely to be the elderly, people of color, or low-income individuals who cannot afford a vehicle. Not only would this bill confirm New Jersey’s commitment to the Complete Streets movement; it would also provide tangible protection to underrepresented communities in a time when our nation is struggling with its history of inequality.
Protecting Bicyclists and Pedestrians Matters
In a collision between a vehicle and a bicyclist or pedestrian, it’s clear who will win and who will lose. Prevention is always the best route outcome. For bicyclists, who must ride on the streets, and pedestrians who live or walk in areas without sidewalks, this bill would represent a major step forward.
“It’s critical that pedestrians and bicyclists are protected on our roadways to the maximum extent possible under the law,” said Partner Michael Fusco, who specializes in representing those injured in car accidents. “We hope our legislature continues to take into consideration new laws that reprimand careless drivers, thereby keeping our roads safe for all that use them.”
This law could also help accident victims in their fight to recover compensation. By setting a legal standard for safe passing practices, it would give injured bicyclists or pedestrians an easy way to prove the driver who hit them was negligent. Drivers, knowing they could be fined up to $500 and have 2 points added to their driving record for violating the new law, may also be more likely to share the road.
Do You Need Help After a Bicycle or Pedestrian Accident?
For as long as negligent drivers continue to injure pedestrians and bicyclists, our team at Levison Axelrod, P.A. will do our part to hold them accountable. We are not so optimistic to think passing one bill will solve the issue of unsafe or careless driving. It will take continued advocacy, and individual penalties for those who break the rules, to create a culture that prizes Complete Streets over car-centric cities.
We hope Governor Murphy, seeing the broad support for this measure, will waste no time in signing it. It is one step toward a New Jersey that is safer for us all.
Call Levison Axelrod, P.A. at (732) 440-3089 or reach out online if you were injured by a negligent driver. We’ve been serving New Jersey for over 80 years.