Feb. 17, 2016: Bad drivers – like those who ignore flashing crosswalks – and bad walkers – like people who don’t use crosswalks to cross the street – should clean up their acts in March, because Metuchen police will be watching.
March will be traffic enforcement blitz month in Metuchen, according to Metuchen Police Traffic Safety Officer Ken Bauer. Police will be working in partnership with the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority for a combined education and enforcement campaign to focus on pedestrian safety in Metuchen.
The point is to change the behavior both of drivers and of pedestrians, according to Jeffrey Perlman, manager, environmental planning and mobility programs at the NJTPA. Perlman gave a presentation before Borough Council Tuesday. The campaign is the result of Metuchen being named one of 12 municipalities chosen for the second phase of NJTPA’s pilot Street Smart New Jersey program, which launched in 2013.
“Our goal is to change pedestrian and motorist behaviors and reduce the number and incidence of pedestrian injury and death,” Perlman said.
The enforcement component of the campaign will include plain clothes, decoy police officers at “hot spot” intersections around the borough being observed by other police officers looking for both pedestrian and motorist violators. Metuchen police received a $4,000 grant that will allow the department to provide extra enforcement focused on pedestrian safety, Bauer said.
Pedestrian safety goes beyond drivers. Pedestrians who don’t cross at crosswalks or fail to heed signals could be slapped with a $54 citation, Bauer said.
“Just giving a head’s up and a warning, it’s going to be a very strict enforcement the month of March,” Bauer said. Metuchen Mayor Pete Cammarano replied: “You can’t enforce this enough for us. Strict is how people unfortunately are going to learn.”
The other part of the campaign is education. That will come through various means, including pedestrian safety signs at the train station and on the sides of buses running through the borough, Perlman said. It will include physical materials like posters and tip cards distributed to businesses and borough facilities, he said.
The campaign will have a new component — social media through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Perlman said. Facebook users from Metuchen will start to see pedestrian safety reminders in their news feed in March, Perlman said.
NJTPA also will work with a consultant who will have people on the streets handing out safety literature to pedestrians, as well as filming particular intersections. The filming, which will take place this month and in April, will help the group figure out if pedestrian and motorist behavior actually changes as a result of the campaign. NJTPA will hand over its final report to the borough over the summer, Perlman said.
Borough Councilwoman Dorothy Rasmussen said the education campaign should go beyond just Metuchen residents, and try and reach people who work in surrounding towns. Those are the people who drive through the borough, she said.
“If you are just targeting Metuchen residents, I think you’re missing the boat on who you should be targeting,” Rasmussen said. “If you go to a big place like that and try and get some of their employees engaged and realizing they’re part of the problem but also a part of the solution, maybe we can get some real change.”
Metuchen will kick-off the campaign with a public event. Jason Delia of the borough Traffic and Transportation Committee said the plan is to hold the event Friday, March 4 at 5 p.m. at Borough Hall. The event would include, weather permitting, a walk down Main Street during rush hour to see how pedestrians and motorists behave at certain intersections.
NJTPA is known as a Metropolitan Planning Organization, which are meant to oversee federally funded transportation projects and provide a forum for local and state officials to plan a region’s transit future. Middlesex County’s NJTPA representative is County Freeholder Charles Tomaro, according to the NJTPA website.