Lettiere announces long term
plan to increase highway safety
(Trenton) - A Highway Safety Task Force appointed by Governor James E. McGreevey today unveiled a 12-point “Safety First” program that combines road improvements, stricter police enforcement and new driver education initiatives to reduce fatalities and injuries. The initiatives include the designation of “Safe Corridors” on highways with high accident rates, increasing fines for overweight trucks or with faulty brakes, and installing new median barriers along interstate highways to prevent deadly crossover accidents.
“These initiatives offer sensible solutions to make New Jersey’s highways safer,” said Governor James E. McGreevey. “It is important that they be implemented quickly so that we can reduce risks and make our roads safer for all motorists.”
“The Department of Transportation has a responsibility to make our highways as safe as possible,” said Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere. “But it can’t be solved through engineering alone; it’s also about changing human behavior and increased enforcement.”
Appointed last November by the Governor, the Task Force members include the DOT, State Police, the AAA Auto Clubs of New Jersey, the New Jersey Motor Truck Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The permanent task force will continue to meet to monitor the progress of the initiatives and to begin exploring safety measures that can be implemented on county roads and local streets.
“The New Jersey State Police firmly believes that by bringing to bear the resources of all the task force members that our highways can truly be made safer for all motorists”, said State Police LTC Albert Kernagis, deputy superintendent of operations. “The ‘Safety First’ initiative, combined with our other programs, such as ‘OperationSafety Net’, which targets commercial vehicles entering New Jersey from surrounding states, will go a long way to meet our goal of preventing accidents and reducing fatalities.”
“We look forward to helping with this new initiative in every way we can,” said Education Commissioner William L. Librera, who will issue policy guidance to all high school teachers, principals and health and physical education teachers who are responsible for driver’s education programs.
Every year, more than 700 New Jerseyans lose their lives in auto accidents and thousands more are injured. “Safety First” will combine $20 million in highway improvements over the next five years, with increased fines for unsafe equipment and hazardous driving, and enhanced driver education for all motorists.
Lettiere said the DOT will support legislation that will designate sections of highways with higher than average accident rates as “Safe Corridors,” where fines for speeding or aggressive driving would be doubled. The doubled fines would remain in force until accident rates decline. Motorists are now subject to doubled fines when such offenses are committed in construction zones. Fines will be dedicated for highway safety purposes.
In addition, the DOT will support legislation that will subject out-of-state trucks to the same fines for overweight violations as currently imposed on New Jersey carriers. Overweight trucks have a far greater impact when involved in accidents and also accelerate the deterioration of highways.
The DOT will revise New Jersey’s written drivers test to include eight questions regarding safe interaction between cars and trucks. In addition, the New Jersey Driver’s Manual will be redesigned to include more information on safety and car-truck interaction. The Department of Education policy guidance will inform driver’s education teachers on how to instruct safe interaction between cars and trucks.
The DOT will invest $15 million over the next five years installing barriers along interstate highway medians to prevent collisions between vehicles traveling in opposite directions. Another $5 million will be used for technological improvements to accelerate the emergency response to accidents and redirect traffic.
Another highlight of the program will be a requirement that truck drivers who accumulate more than 12 points attend an accredited safety driving school.