Fair Lawn is joining a statewide pedestrian safety campaign that aims to save lives through education.
The Street Smart NJ campaign will begin Jan. 30. The borough will receive “a campaign in a box,” said Melissa Hayes of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.
In the box will be brightly colored, two-sided posters with slogans like “Drive smart: Heads up, phones down” and “Walk Smart: We wait for the walk.” Police officers will also be handing out tip cards to drivers and pedestrians.
A high rate of pedestrian fatalities has led the federal government to designate New Jersey as a pedestrian safety focus state. State police statistics show that the number of pedestrians killed has risen in recent years. On average, one pedestrian is killed every two days in New Jersey and 12 are injured daily.
In October, Roy Choueri, a 64-year-old Fair Lawn resident and retired Army sergeant, was critically injured when he was struck by an SUV in a crosswalk at Berdan Avenue and Sunnyside Drive.
“Pedestrian safety is a focus of this council and our Police Department, and is a primary concern of our community,” said Fair Lawn Deputy Mayor Josh Reinitz.
The Police Department will be stepping up enforcement during the campaign, said Sgt. Brian Metzler.
“The campaign is most successful when everyone gets involved, like the Board of Education, Girls Scouts and more,” said Will Yarzab, Street Smart coordinator at the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. “It’s really a turnkey operation.”
Officers will be going into schools and religious institutions to provide education on what it means to be a good pedestrian and to be a good driver, Metzler said.
The main behavior goals of Street Smart NJ are getting drivers to stop at crosswalks, reducing speeding and distracted driving, and encouraging pedestrians to cross in crosswalks and only when there is a walk sign or green signal.
“The rules run both ways, but cars are bigger than people — that’s why pedestrians are usually the people that get hurt,” Metzler said.
Mayor Kurt Peluso said Fair Lawn has been giving more than lip service to pedestrian safety. “Over the last few years, Fair Lawn has been creating more crosswalks and bike lanes, installing three flashing beacon rapid repeaters per year, and putting more crossing guards on our streets,” he said.
Street Smart NJ is a federally funded campaign to create public awareness coordinated by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. The campaign will not require any funds from residents.
Since its creation in 2013, the campaign has been in more than 120 communities, Hayes said. An evaluation conducted in 2019 in Garfield found that the campaign helped to change behavior.