Pedestrian Safety Initiative: Undercover Cops In Crosswalks

crosswalk at nightWe have a serious problem with pedestrian safety in our area. Forty-five pedestrians have been killed on roads in Essex County since 2011. In Montclair alone, drivers hit pedestrians–some of them in crosswalks–in OctoberMarch, April, and May, resulting in two deaths.

In response, police departments throughout the county are attempting to curb dangerous driving by going undercover to carry out pedestrian crosswalk stings.

Officers from Montclair, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, East Orange and Newark police departments were deployed yesterday to act as pedestrians on the Bloomfield Avenue corridor. The well traveled road is the site of many accidents–including one of the recent pedestrian fatalities in Montclair. Drivers who failed to yield to the undercover officers in the crosswalk were stopped and either warned or ticketed by uniformed officers a short distance away. Normally, motorists violating the pedestrian law face a $100 fine, plus court costs and fees, and two points on their driving record.

“Bloomfield Avenue is one of our county’s busiest and most dangerous roads for pedestrians,” said Essex County Community Transportation Safety Program Coordinator Arnold Anderson. “The implementation of this program should go a long way to making it safer for everyone who steps off the sidewalk and into a crosswalk.”

Pedestrian fatalities account for about half of all motor vehicle deaths in Essex County, which ranks among the highest rate in New Jersey–a state where pedestrian fatalities have been rising steadily over the last three years. In 2012, 163 pedestrians were killed on New Jersey’s roadways. This year, 57 pedestrians have been killed, a rate slightly higher than last year’s.

yield for pedestrians in crosswalk

Glen Ridge Police chose the location of Belleville Ave. and Sherman Ave. for their sting operation. They issued 15 motor vehicle summonses and 67 warnings during a four hour period, according to Lt Fred Egnezzo.  Drivers were also given an educational brochure listing fines and an explanation of the obligation drivers have to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

The “Cops in Crosswalks” initiative is funded by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety and is administered by the Essex County College Police Academy in Cedar Grove.

The Division offers the following safety tips for pedestrians:

• Walk on sidewalks or paths and always cross at the corner, within marked crosswalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and make eye contact with motorists.

• Never cross mid-block (unless within a marked crosswalk), between parked cars or by climbing over median barriers.

• Look left, then right and left again before crossing, and always be on the look-out for turning vehicles.

• Continue to look for vehicles while crossing, even when in marked crosswalks.

• Learn the proper use of “walk/don’t walk” signals and obey them.

• Walk and cross with others, when possible.

• Wear bright-colored, reflectorized clothing, especially at night.

• Do not attempt to cross while talking or texting on a cell phone.

• Try not to walk at night or in bad weather, such as rain, snow or ice.

• If you drink alcohol, have someone escort you to your front door.

crosswalk styles
Various crosswalk styles.

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  1. While I agree this is a huge problem, the pedestrians must be responsible in this too; many of them do not cross in the crosswalk, and then we are still expected to slam on our brakes? I got into an accident on Bloomfield Ave in Mtc last October when a pedestrian cut off the car in front of me, so he had to slam on his brakes and I slid on snow and ran into him; the person who got hit and killed in October was also jaywalking, and the person who hit her was devastated. That was NOT her fault, so please let’s be reasonable when crossing the street.

  2. Caldwell was also involved in the initiative. Their department reported 145 warnings issued, and 13 tickets. In three days.

    That’s the only way to get people to observe the laws.

  3. This law is dangerous ! The only one I can depend on for my safety is myself! I prefer to rely on my own judgement of when it is safe to cross and will wait until there are no cars coming in either direction to cross. Yup, old school!

  4. This ‘sting’ itself is hugely problematic and does more to endanger the public than to protect. The deployment of undercover law enforcement personnel whose only intent is to snare unwitting motorists and who have no intent of actually crossing the street is a form of entrapment and an abuse of police power. Concern for public safety is laudable, however the deployment and implementation of this initiative is of dubious benefit, and in the long run will do nothing to protect pedestrians. This whole thing is just a publicity stunt.

  5. I think any attention to this problem in our town is great. Just 2 Sunday mornings ago-I was driving south on Union-crossing Orange/Harrison going towards S Fullerton. I had another car on my bumper-and thought, “Wow, this guy is in a rush.” After we both crossed through the intersection, he actually speed up (I’m probably doing 20 mph, I figure that’s really as fast as one should drive on a residential street packed with houses and kids) and passed me on the left. On a residential street-and kept going, barely stopping as he crossed S Fullerton, right by St Luke’s Episcopal. And did I mention this was Sunday morning? Anything undertaken by the town and or county to improve safety is a good thing, we need to promote more cautious driving in town.

  6. Driving Bloomfield Avenue can feel like a challenging video game. Cars pulling out of spots, buses picking up passengers, sun glare morning and night, it’s a tough drive, and frankly, it’s quite a task just scanning the road straight ahead. Pedestrians–real or the faux variety–are nearly invisible among the visual soup. Parked cars block the driver’s view, and visually, something way over by the curb simply can’t compete with all the nonsense in the line of travel.
    Bloomfield Avenue is a lousy place to try and modify our behavior. It just stinks of being a setup for fines.

  7. Pedestrian safety is part of a much larger problem on Bloomfield Avenue. I’d start at actively policing against all double-parking on the street and eliminating all left hand turns where there isn’t a turning lane.

  8. MellonBrush wrote:

    This ‘sting’ itself is hugely problematic and does more to endanger the public than to protect. The deployment of undercover law enforcement personnel whose only intent is to snare unwitting motorists and who have no intent of actually crossing the street is a form of entrapment and an abuse of police power. Concern for public safety is laudable, however the deployment and implementation of this initiative is of dubious benefit, and in the long run will do nothing to protect pedestrians. This whole thing is just a publicity stunt.


    I dunno. It seems pretty clear that people are being run down at a considerable pace. Forty five people killed in two years is not a small number.

    Under the best of circumstances, NJ driver skills leave a lot to be desired. Enforcing the full stop for right turn on red, yielding to pedestrians in the marked crosswalks, etc should cut down on some of the carnage.

  9. Common sense and education along with enforcement are the keys to safer roads. However let’s look at the hyper-local culture we’re dealing with in the NNJ overcrowded urban/suburban areas. The first is, beyond a doubt, the “Jersey Attitude”, a cross between a pioneer freedom mindset coupled with a total lack of reality or societal empathy. The second are the bad habits we encounter in our daily forays whether it is to plunder milk and bread, report to fort work, rescue the little ones from school or just some relaxing stroll. One of the worst of these habits besides the “Jersey Left” at a traffic light is what I like to call sandpipering, the pedestrian dance performed while trying to cross a busy road.

    We all know we are the innocent ones that are courteous, follow safe driving habits and as pedestrians, smile, wave and share the sidewalk; so to see how well you fare in this life or death game let’s go to the video game …

    First pick a player as a regular citizen:

    You are a male or female; 8-17, 18-25, 26-45, 46-70, 71+young, or 71+ old.

    Add the attributes:

    A new driver, thousands of hours behind the wheel, scared to leave your driveway or any of the above from out of state.

    Stickler for the rules, follow the rules with some discretion, the rules were made for other people or haven’t got a clue.

    Everything is butterflies and clouds, calm, late and in no hurry, harried and late, distracted, entitled or total road rage.

    You’re: cold sober, mildly buzzed or totally impaired.

    Game board: A maze of different roads in varying states of repair with poor signage populated with schools, driveways of all types and thousands and thousands of random configurations of people.

    So … you’re doing the speed limit, being tailgated, small line of cars behind. A closely spaced line of cars is in the oncoming lane with the lead one having a left turn signal on. There are parked cars just ahead and you notice some joggers coming at you with headphones on and a bicyclist fast approaching behind them, a couple of women pushing strollers walking with traffic, side by side and all about to meet up at the parked cars, when a pedestrian steps onto the road to cross while texting. The pedestrian stops two feet from the curb and looks up, briefly checking traffic and waves you on while looking back down to the phone. That’s when you see the pothole (sinkhole?) that must have its own facebook page.

    Do you:

    A) See your life flash before your eyes for umpteenth time in 4 blocks.
    B) Take a second to decide whether or not to swerve into oncoming traffic or lean on your horn and step on the gas and make a quick left into a driveway.
    C) Slam on your breaks.
    D) Check to see if there is a cop car ahead and realize it’s a sting and slam on your brakes.
    E) Start composing your story for the police.
    F) Close your eyes and hope for the best.
    G) All of the above in no particular order.

    If you answered “E” you probably don’t have one of those gold shields just over your inspection sticker …

  10. Alic314 stated “Just 2 Sunday mornings ago-I was driving south on Union-crossing Orange/Harrison going towards S Fullerton.” This is VERY dangerous since Union is an east-west road. Then, by his/her own admission, was traveling at 20 mph. The speed limit for the area is a safe 25mph.

  11. On the one hand, I support the sting b/c not enough drivers yield to pedestrians in this town. On the other hand, it’s only a temporary solution to a long-term problem. The second the sting stops, everyone goes back to normal including the police not ticketing drivers who don’t yield and at times, not yielding themselves.

  12. “Forty-five pedestrians have been killed on roads in Essex County since 2011.”`

  13. Much like taxing the HELL out of cigarettes to “price” them out of existence, I’ll say what I always do: TRIPLE the fine, add on a “fee” and a surcharge to it!!

    Jay-walking: $250
    Speeding: $500
    Moving/Crosswalk violation: $750
    Running with a baby stroller down Grove/Valley/Park: $1000

    Do this and I bet the problem will diminish very quickly.

    sillyphus is right on the money (and the game MUST be developed further!). Much of this is the arrogance, stupidity drivers AND walkers, and let’s not forget the idiot runners and cyclists!!

  14. @ Howard Beale-whoops, you’re right. Bad typing.
    But seriously, between where I was (on the corner by Rocky the horse and Porter Park), I’m driving by houses, lots of kids, there’s a pretty well attended church group that meets in the Women’s Club on Sunday mornings, and then to the corner where St Luke’s is located-going faster than 20 mph seems a bit too fast. And I live in that neighborhood-I’d rather be safer and slower than sorry.
    But still-to my point about unsafe driving or even reckless choices when one may be in a hurry….have you ever passed someone on the left on a residential street? That’s a bit much. And I bet we’ve all seem examples of it.

  15. I’m fine with this. I’m pretty fed up with car induced death so I’m fine okay with pretty much any other pedestrian / speed traps they want to roll out.
    2012 was banner year here in Bloomfield for death on the roads. A few blocks from me an older gentleman was killed crossing Broad St. Another few blocks north of there Deshon Johnson was killed last July trying to catch the bus. Another few blocks from there Christina Lembo was killed in a car accident last October. She wasn’t a pedestrian, but whatever. Stricter enforcement of traffic laws is a good thing.

  16. Laws relating to crosswalks and right of way will continue to be difficult to enforce due to the highly subjective nature of infraction detection. Failure to yield is probably the most under-enforced traffic regulation here or anywhere else. It’s a reminder that civilized areas, i.e. the west coast, don’t need.

    We live in an urban area with a sh*t load of cars zipping around. Anyone who thinks that high fines or crosswalk right of way stings will lessen the incidence of pedestrians being hit by cars is deluding themselves.

    It’s incumbent upon people crossing streets to learn how to levitate to ensure their safe transection of vehicular thoroughfares.

  17. Sillyphys, I laughed out loud at the sinkhole with its own FB page. that was really funny.

    I know this isn’t really a laughing matter. Everyone needs to slow down, and be more aware of the surroundings, both walkers and drivers. And a little common courtesy would go a long way.

    Meantime here’s a few pointers.
    (1) Stop at the friggin’ stop signs!
    (2) Cross at the stinkin’ corner, and not 10 feet away up the road on an angle, where I can’t possibly see you until I actually turn and then you are right in my path!!
    (3) Don’t cut in line. If the lane is marked left turn only, don’t zoom up there anyway and then cut over to the right just because the right lane to go straight is backed up for two blocks. Do you do that at Shop Rite, or the bank, or at Giants’ stadium?? I think not.
    (4) Even if there is no sign that says you can’t park there, Don’t park underneath the stop sign. For one thing, it’s probably a violation of the statute (although nothing gets enforced around here but that’s another issue). For another, it prevents people from seeing a danged thing. When you are out enjoying a couple of pints of Egan’s delicious microbrews, and you’re parked at the very tippy-end corner of Walnut and Forest, I can’t for the life of me see if it’s clear to to pull out onto Walnut until I’m pretty much all the way out into the middle of the road (and I have an SUV, I shudder to think what it would be like in my old Celica!). Have a little courtesy. We are your neighbors who live around there, long before Egan’s ever existed.
    (5) Finally, remember: what comes around, goes around. You may not know when it happens, but it will. Eventually you’ll realize that paying it forward makes everyone feel better.

  18. We need this! Bloomfield Expressway (as I call it), needs a lot of help. Why not add the posts with flashing lights on both sides of crosswalks on this Avenue. Prof Williams idea would improve this plan a lot. However, it needs to be more than a short term sting operation. I vote zero tolerance for all moving traffic violations with high fines when violated.

  19. I’ll cite North Caldwell as a place where people don’t routinely speed more than two or three miles over the limit. Even on broad, open roads like Central or Mountain.

    The reason is pretty simple. NC police run speed traps constantly, use unmarked cars, etc. Anybody who’s lived in the area more than a few minutes is well aware that traps are out 24/7. At 3pm the traps move over to the vicinity of the Gould school.

    Essex Fells is another example of attention to the speed limits.

    Consistent enforcement works wonders in getting people to change their behavior.

  20. I still vote for the Bloomel….Or the Monnel….The tunnel under Bloomfield Ave. Starting at the Museum and ending in Bloomfield…..Cha-Ching!

  21. Good to see the local PDs doing this. People do need to slow down and pay more attention. I’ve experienced a few near misses while in a crosswalk.

    OTOH, I regularly see people walking into the traffic lanes, mostly west of Grove, closer to the fire house.
    Often times, they simply walk, slowly, into the roadway when there’s oncoming traffic, like the cars can magically stop because pedestrians have a legal right of way. More courtesy and common sense is needed all-around.

  22. I am curious as to how many of those fatalities happened when someone was trying to cross in the crosswalk and how many were from people crossing where they weren’t supposed to.

    Often when I stop for someone in a crosswalk, some jerk behind me tries passing me and almost takes out the pedestrian. Other times, when the crosswalk is by a bus stop, pedestrians hang out in the street by the curb looking for the bus. I think they are trying to cross so I stop before realizing they aren’t waiting to cross.

    Where I live in Bloomfield, the police have no radar guns in their patrol cars so you can speed all over with no fear of getting caught (unless it is by the Essex County sherrif’s who do have radar guns in their cars). In Glen Ridge, all of the police have radar in their cars. I have also seen them set up a speed trap at the intersection of Ridgewood and Bloomfield Ave. When I drive through Glen Ridge, I slow down. As paolo said, consistent enforcement can work in reducing these issues.

  23. MellonBrush said “…enforcement personnel whose only intent is to snare unwitting motorists”

    I think that is the point too many drivers are unwitting, or busy with things other then driving. I was almost killed when a car stopped to let me cross and some dope passed on the inside and came within inches of hitting me; AND I WAS STILL ON THE SIDEWALK, setpping out.

  24. Though I take safety in general rather seriously, I think this topic is somewhat ridiculous. Out of all of those statistics, I’d like to know how many people were hit on the actual sidewalk? We live in a subURBAN environment and to place most of the responsibility on the driver asks too much. In theory, it shouldn’t I agree but it just does. I grew up in very rural North Jersey where fatalities in my home town due to car accidents were consistently amongst the highest in the country, but what could they really do ? They couldn’t change the weather, so they put in a few highly illuminated warning signs…. Did it work ? No… Here we are discussing how irresponsible drivers are slamming into people in cross walks and we are using our resources to send people undercover to walk in these cross walks and what write summons to motorists who what hit them? Which will change nothing !!! Come on people !!! I’m sorry but I just think this is somewhat ridiculous. What happened to looking both ways before you cross the street ?? (where’s those statistics I asked for) I mean I ALWAYS stop to let someone cross in town, but I NEVER trust crossing until a car is at a complete stop. Most of the time I waive them on anyway. I’m not going to put my life in some driver’s hands who’s doing a minimum of 25-35 mph if not more. And while we’re on the topic, perhaps a few speed traps on high volume over abused areas like Alexander Ave would help the cause. People are constantly doing 50+ mph around a blind curve between Grove and Park where for some ridiculous reason parking is actually allowed on both sides of the street. I’ve never once seen a speed trap. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a speed trap EVER in town since I moved here 10 years ago…. or a snow plow for that matter. I guess they don’t come with my 20k/yr tax dollars. Sorry I couldn’t help myself…

    Anyway I think the problem lies within and undercover cops seems like a stupid gesture to a problem that will continue regardless. Perhaps these officers should be looking for drug dealers, thieves, or maybe even perhaps run a radar on streets where the crosswalks are numerous and people are flying up and down constantly. I mean undercover ??? You have a better chance at lowering statistics by putting an officer in uniform on these streets, or better yet, in his cruiser. At least people will see it. What will a citation do? If they hit someone, it’s already too late and it’s not like they’re gonna go home and post on Baristanet they received a citation today so all should beware…..

    Lastly I think part of the problem is the law itself. I don’t have a problem with the law, it’s a nice law. People crossing the street without any worry is so comforting (in the tri state area ????), however I question how many people even know it’s a law. I sure didn’t before moving to Montclair and I consider myself a good knowledgeable driver, and out of state folks which there are many of, forget about it.

  25. I understand that the people who are snared in crosswalk stings will, after receiving a ticket, be more attentive to pedestrians in crosswalks. Wouldn’t it be a nice idea, however, to have police watching actual pedestrians crossing, and issuing tickets to the drivers who zoom past them? The thing about the sting is that it targets, rather than protects. In the stings, the police are watching out for each other, instead of for you and me. A day after the Montclair Times ran the story about the crosswalk sting, I was crossing the street at Bloomfield and Midland, waiting for traffic near the curb to pass by before I entered the street, and giving cars further away ample time to see me. It didn’t matter. People still drove by. I wish that I could issue them tickets, but I can’t.

    I would appreciate a sting in town to enforce stoplight laws, which are routinely violated, even in areas with lots of pedestrian traffic. It doesn’t matter if there’s a countdown signal advising you how much time is left before the light turns yellow. Drivers still want to get through the intersection without waiting. As a friend of mine once said, “In Montclair, a red light is for advisory purposes only.”

  26. I am for all the safety that we can give to pedestrians when crossing the street. With the governments initiative giving monies to townships to have police posing a pedestrians barley standing in a crosswalk waiting for drivers to pass buy and get ticketed. Most people do not realize the penalty for this ticket. It carries a 230.00 ticket 2 points, 250 surcharge and community service and or prison time. This is a huge money maker for the townships which employ these means of teaching what are normally good drivers a lesson. Add another three hundred or so for the attorney to fight this charge. There is a need for extreme safety for drivers but more so for the pedestrians who sometimes empower themselves by not looking before crossing and take that crosswalk for a shield for protection. Speed limits need to be reduced around crosswalks. It is a lot easier to stop at 25 than at 40. Awareness is going to be the best avenue for preventing accidents at the crosswalks not fleecing good people of their dignity and clean driving record.

  27. Montclair PD is a little busy right now, keeping an eye on Mission Street, Greenwood, etc but an occasional sting on Bloomfield Avenue, Grove near Walnut, Valley near Jerome, etc would go a long way toward restoring civility on the highways.

    Parsippany runs a sting at Route 46 and Beverwyck Road occasionally each month. Bus commuters have to dodge turning cars as the commuters try to cross over to the bus stop. They run stings up at Knoll Road, etc occasionally, too.
    Doesn’t take a lot of cops to show serious results.

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