A bill creating a Vision Zero Task Force charged with eliminating New Jersey’s traffic-related deaths took its first step through the legislature today, with the Senate Transportation approving it on a unanimous vote.
If ultimately passed by the full legislature, the 21-member task force would study and issue recommendations on how to make driving, walking, and biking safer, with the ultimate goal of bringing the number of traffic fatalities in the state to zero by 2035. That’s a daunting mission; there were 698 traffic fatalities in New Jersey in 2021, a 14-year high.
“When I walk in the afternoon, especially when I walk with my grandkids, it’s gotten scary,” said State Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield), the chairman of the Transportation Committee and the bill’s sponsor. “This is something that we really, really have to get a handle on. And that’s what this whole bill is about.”
Several other parts of the country have launched Vision Zero plans in recent years, including New York City, which implemented a program in 2014 that seems to have helped reduce fatal crashes in the city.
Testifying at the committee hearing today were several traffic safety advocates, many of whom had lost loved ones to traffic accidents and all of whom urged the legislature to do whatever it can to prevent future tragedies.
“I can only hope that New Jersey … becomes a powerhouse and an example for every other state in this country in leading a decrease in car crashes and fatalities,” testified Pam O’Donnell, a Bayonne resident who lost her husband and daughter in a 2016 crash. “Let New Jersey take the lead on this and be the example for everyone else. Because we are Jersey Strong.”
Her plea was echoed by Stephen Dunn, a first responder in Elizabeth who said he’s seen too many crashes happen in the same places, over and over, with no remedies put in place to stop them.
“These are not accidents,” he said. “These are predictable crashes at predictable locations, and we have the tools to fix them… It doesn’t have to be this way. We can end the carnage.”