|TRENTON – Despite near across-the-board decreases in traffic-related fatalities at the halfway point in 2012, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety today urged drivers to stay safe on the roads during the July 4th holiday – roads that are expected to be heavily trafficked.
Here at the midway point of the year, most fatality statistics are down from 2011. Overall fatalities are down to 262 from 291 from the same time last year. That represents a 10 percent decrease. However, the 2012 figure is slightly higher than at the same point in 2010 (256).
Looking more in depth at motor vehicle year-to-date numbers, there are fatality decreases from 2011 in drivers (149 from 170), passengers (43 from 50) and pedestrians (61 from 65). Only bicyclists (9 from 6) have seen an uptick in fatalities from this point last year. Motorcycle fatalities are down to 28 this year, from 49 at this point in 2012.
“We are encouraged by the decline in traffic-related fatalities thus far,” said Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky. “But the only way to keep these numbers heading in the right direction during this upcoming holiday week is for our motorists to practice safe driving habits: obey the speed limits, always wear your seatbelt and never drive distracted or drink and drive.”
Poedubicky emphasized the importance of drivers ignoring distractions and staying focused on the road.
“The temptation is there to talk or text on the phone while driving. But the danger is too great and the consequences too dire. The call or text can wait,” Poedubicky said.
The Automobile Association of America (AAA) expects this July 4th holiday period to be one the busiest in recent memory for New Jersey motorists.
Tracy Noble, a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, reported that 1.1 million New Jerseyans were expected to drive more than 50 miles for their vacations during the holiday period. That number is an increase of 3.2 percent from 2011 and is the highest it has been since 2007. Noble also said that the total number of travelers motoring their way to vacation is expected to increase 4 percent from last year to 1.3 million.
Noble said the swell in expected travel volume is a result of shrinking prices at the pump.
“We have seen gas prices decline for 10 weeks and the price per gallon is down about 60 cents from last year,” Noble said. “People are now starting to get back into gear with traveling.”
Poedubicky noted that nine people lost their lives in crashes on New Jersey’s roads during the five-day July 4th holiday period last year. Three of deaths were alcohol related.
To ensure drivers stay safe and sober behind the wheel this weekend and throughout the summer, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control have partnered with the HERO Campaign for its Jersey Shore HEROES Campaign.
The HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers has registered nearly 200 bars, taverns and restaurants to participate in the campaign. The non-profit initiative, which promotes the use of safe and sober designated drivers, is working with licensed beverage establishments from Sandy Hook to Cape May, and enlisting them to offer to serve free soft drinks to designated drivers offering to provide safe rides home for their friends and loved ones.
The HERO Campaign was established in October of 2000 in memory of Navy Ensign John Elliott of Egg Harbor Township, who was killed by a drunk driver two months after graduating with honors from the United States Naval Academy, where he was named the Outstanding HERO of his graduating class.
"We are enthusiastic and grateful for the support we have received from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and the growing number of bars and restaurants who are joining Jersey Shore HEROES and committed to keeping their patrons safe this summer," said Bill Elliott, John Elliott's father, and the founder of the HERO Campaign.
Elliott said the HERO Campaign is also partnering with the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, the Division of Travel and Tourism, the South Jersey Transportation Authority, state and local law enforcement agencies, and the Turnpike Authority to promote the public safety initiative throughout the state.