NJ gets tough on drivers who don't yield for pedestrians

March 31, 2010 2:35:17 PM PDT
There is an effort under way to make streets safer in New Jersey. A new law goes into effect at midnight that changes what drivers have to do at a crosswalk.

Instead of slowing down, drivers have to come to a complete stop. And they have to stay stopped.

The traffic signal alone should give pedestrians confidence to cross a busy street without getting hit by a car. Unfortunatley, it doesn't.

"I always tell people, it's not worth dying over," Newark resident Deborah Jacobs said. "Even though you have the right of way, you wait for the car to pass."

Now, New Jersey has changed it's pedestrian laws. It is now stop for pedestrians, not yield. And not a rolling stop, but a complete one.

"We may have an officer dressed as a decoy 200 feet down the road," Newark Director of Public Safety Anthony Campos said.

Eyewitness News set up cameras at the intersection of Market and Washington in Newark to look for the problem.

One red Mitsubishi barely slowed down, even though there were two people crossing the street. In another incident, three pedestrians had the right of way. But that didn't stop the driver of a silver Toyota. And another woman couldn't cross when four cars drove through the intersection, even though she had the right of way.

"I can't believe we have to have to a law," resident Amy Gottlieb said.

"I think that's good," resident Charles Davis said. "That's good. I've almost been ran over a couple of times."

"Human bodies are very vulnerable," Chai Chai Wang said. "Cars should slow down."

And she should know. Wang is recovering from a broken leg after she got hit by a car last year. And she had the right of way.

"The driver sped up, and I got scooped up," she said.

The new law is also in honor of Casey Feldman.

"Casey was killed in a crosswalk, and it shouldn't have happened," dad Joel Feldman said. "It was the result a distracted driver."

The new law is also tougher on pedestrians, with stricter fines for jaywalking. And crossing the street with headphones or while texting is discouraged.

The new fine for drivers is $200 and two points in their license. For jaywalking pedestrians, it's $54.

While the law goes into effect April 1, there will be a brief grace period. But by summer, officers say they will have zero tolerance.