Police Pursue Safer Streets for Pedestrians

Dozens of warnings issued to motorists who failed to stop for people in crosswalks Thursday.


Police snagged dozens of motorists for failing to stop for pedestrians in Caldwell crosswalks Thursday.

The blitz was part of an operation designed to educate police officers, but it turned out to be a lesson for drivers, too.

Some 45 officers from around the state came to Essex County to partake in a course offered by the Essex County College Police Academy.

After a morning of intensive training at the Cedar Grove police academy, the off-duty officers stationed themselves at two busy crosswalks in Caldwell — Bloomfield Avenue near Trinity Academy and Ravine and Central avenues. The locations were chosen because they are “uncontrolled,” which means they do not have stop signs or traffic lights.

Caldwell Police Sgt. Michael Pellegrino, head of the Traffic Division, said 20 warnings were issued Thursday on Bloomfield Avenue, where he said an average of 37,000 motorists travel along each day.

Since April 1, 2010, motorists in New Jersey are required by law to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, according to the New Jersey Division of Traffic Safety (NJDTS). Previously, the NJDTS website explains, the law required drivers simply to yield.

The Field Operation

Under the direction of Safety Consultant Ranjit Walia, the plainclothes officers took turns crossing the roads and observing motorists’ behavior. Spotters radioed officers further down the roads about those drivers who failed to stop, and the drivers were pulled over and issued warnings.

Many drivers who neglected to stop, whizzed past the “pedestrians,” apparently unfamiliar with the state law.

“If these are the kind of streets we have, would you feel safe letting your children out?” Walia asked.

“When people feel safe, we have more of a feeling of community," he added. “We don’t want this to be normal, we want normal to be a safe feeling.”

Making a Difference

Earlier at the police academy, Coordinator Arnold Anderson, a retired Vehicular Homicide Detective for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, said he has conducted pilot operations in the past in Montclair and South Orange.

Since those operations they have seen “significant changes in pedestrian yielding behavior,” he said.

When the operation was carried out in Montclair and South Orange, interns measured the yield rate, recording an 11 percent yield rate for pedestrians. In just six weeks of the operation, there was a 38 to 40 percent yield rate in each of those towns, Anderson said.

A Grave Issue

“Statistically, the New Jersey pedestrian fatality rate is very much above the national average,” said Robert Gaydosh, regional supervisor for the NJDHTS. “It’s a major priority statewide and it’s a quality of life and safety issue. The purpose is to give officers hands-on tools in addressing this issue.”

About 24 percent of motor vehicle fatalities in New Jersey involve pedestrians, according to Gaydosh. There are an average of 600 vehicular-related fatalities a year, 150 of which involve pedestrians.

“Part of the problem is that no one ever explains crosswalk laws,” said Walia to the gathered officers. “Did they ever teach [you] when you got your driver's license? No. Did they ever teach it at the Police Academy? No.”

Part of the problem is distracted drivers, said Gadosh. Not only are drivers distracted at the wheel by their electronic devices, he said, but the same goes for pedestrians.

“Drivers who are talking or texting are not paying full attention to the road,” he said. “The same holds true for pedestrians. It’s not all about the drivers, it’s a shared responsibility.”

melanie September 07, 2012 at 01:01 PM
It would be great if they could do it more than 1 day a year...also speeding is a HUGH problem in caldwell and west caldwell - someone needs to address this - especially now that school has started
ADRIENNE September 07, 2012 at 01:49 PM
The most dangerous intersection is roseland ave and bloomfield ave. Pedestrians are crossing between cars on Roseland Ave that when your coming down roseland ave you cannot see someone cutting between cars. Start giving tickets to pedestrians for j walking.
Christy Berg September 07, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Bravo! Let's make this a regular exercise in Caldwell until drivers know that if they break the law in our town, they WILL be ticketed. People know the law. They simply fail to comply with it if they know it's not enforced. Towns who do enforce pedestrian right of way and speed limits do not have the safety issue that Caldwell does. When you step off the curb in many towns, drivers stop. I can't tell you how many times I've had a motorist in Caldwell speed by me, fail to yield, blow the horn at me, or curse out the window at me for crossing in a crosswalk with the right of way! I've almost been hit several times. And, I am consistently honked or yelled at as a driver who yields to pedestrians and observes the speed limit on Bloomfield Avenue. Creating a pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown should be a top priority for Caldwell. I am sure I'm not alone in my appreciation to the Caldwell PD for beginning this effort. Thank you and PLEASE keep it up!
RM7 September 07, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Pedestrian safety is an important issue, don't get me wrong. But most of the pedestrians put themselves in danger by having the mindset of "oh, if I'm in the crosswalk, I have the right away." If you want to think that way and aren't scared of a 2 ton piece of machinery is coming at you, then more power to you but don't cry when you get jacked up. I would like to see some data specifically from Caldwell and West Caldwell because NJ is a densely populated state. Those statewide numbers do not necessarily reflect OUR town - could be very well that zero incidents happened. And really? A task force for pedestrian safety? All of this time, money and personnel (that YOU are paying for) is being wasted on something that PARENTS AND SCHOOLS SHOULD BE TEACHING THEIR CHILDREN. I learned this stuff before I was in kindergarten, it is not difficult, trust me. There are burglaries and robberies occurring almost weekly it seems in this town - where are those 45 extra police officers in those situations?
RM7 September 07, 2012 at 05:33 PM
And while I do understand that pedestrians have the right in the crosswalk, it still doesn't mean people should think that way 100% of the time. Plenty of people don't follow the law, are you really going to trust that driver to stop? Just because it's a law doesn't mean it's not going to get broken.
Stephen Craig September 07, 2012 at 06:30 PM
It is about time! This program was initially discussed a few years ago while I was on the Caldwell Traffic committee. Hopefully this will continue with roving units around town. The crosswalks at Westville and Brookside at the entrance to the Park should be a prime focus.
ADRIENNE September 07, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Bravo D3M your statement about the burglaries and robberies is right on point. Were is the police department since they seem not to catch anyone. Which makes the town a easy target.
LTR65 September 08, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Lets not let this town become a police state. I respect the pedestrians, but the police will run with this and get ticket crazy.
Suzy September 09, 2012 at 12:02 AM
It's about time. People stop for red lights because if you plow through them, you'll get a ticket or be slammed by another 2-ton vehicle. They see a pedestrian in a crosswalk and they just cruise through it. It's a shame. I hope they give out a ton of tickets to these clueless and dangerous drivers. Driving is a privilege, not a right.
Kean09 September 09, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I watched a mother cross her two small children the other day across lane ave by 7-11. The cross walk was maybe 20 feet away, she was crossing where the cars stop on lane for the light to bloomfield ave. Why not just walk the 20 feet to the crosswalk?? I also stop for anyone who is crossing in the crosswalk I am also aware of anyone making their way to it. I have had people yell at me a lay on the horn when I wait for them.. I was allowing a mother and her baby to cross while I was waiting to make a left onto Cleveland one day, the person behind me was honking the horn and pounding on his steering wheel. Was I suppose to run them over???
Ted L September 14, 2012 at 01:02 AM
The drivers are violating the law. shall we let all criminals free.
Ted L September 14, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Need more traffic lights. Too bad if it inconveniences drivers when there are no pedestrians. What is more important Gov Christie, not inconveniencing drivers or keeping your citizens alive?


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