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(TRENTON) — Legislation Assembly members Linda Stender, John S. Wisniewski, Ruben J. Ramos, Jr., and Thomas P. Giblin sponsored to enhance pedestrian safety throughout New Jersey was signed into law Monday by Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

The law (A-1329) was approved by both houses on Jan. 11.

“The number of pedestrian deaths in our state has been increasing instead of decreasing despite our best efforts in recent years,” said Stender (D-Union), vice chairwoman of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. “This law will clearly give pedestrians the right of way so that school children and people on foot can safely walk to their destinations.”

“As the most densely populated state in the union, keeping our transportation network safe for both pedestrian and motorist use presents a unique challenge,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the transportation committee’s chairman. “Increasing access to sidewalks and footpaths and stressing the mutual respect drivers and pedestrians must have for each other will help achieve that balance.”

“Motorists and pedestrians need a clear, simple set of rules governing their interactions, especially with summer weather almost upon us,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “This law provides that clarity, simply stating the responsibilities of approaching a crosswalk when on foot or behind the wheel.”

“Requiring New Jersey drivers to stop — not yield — to pedestrians in crosswalks will better protect residents on foot,” said Giblin (D-Essex). “It also will act as a reminder to motorists that they share the road with pedestrians as well as other vehicles.”

The law — a result of the transportation panel’s 2006 hearings on New Jersey pedestrian safety — provides pedestrians with a clear right to safely navigate New Jersey’s roadways.

Specifically, the law requires drivers to stop and remain stopped to allow pedestrians to cross a roadway within a marked crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon or within the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.

Under former law, motorists had to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, but did not have the clear duty of stopping and remaining stopped.

In addition, former law was ambiguous as to whether the area within which a pedestrian is protected by a motorist’s duty to yield includes all or only a portion of the crosswalk.

The duty of motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks is retained in regard to unmarked crosswalks at intersections.

The law increases the fine to be imposed on a person convicted of violating the provisions from $100 to $200 and increases the portion of each such fine collected that is to be deposited into the “Pedestrian Safety Enforcement and Education Fund.

It also provides that a court may impose community service in addition to imposing the prescribed fine.

The law provides a pedestrian with the clear right to complete a crossing begun at an intersection on a “go” or green signal, but not yet completed when the signal changes. It also requires drivers making a right turn at a red or yellow traffic signal or at a stop or yield sign to stop and remain stopped pursuant for pedestrians crossing within the adjacent crosswalk into which the motorist is turning.

Lastly, the law provides that when a collision occurs between a vehicle and a pedestrian within a marked crosswalk, or at an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, there is a permissive inference that the driver did not exercise due care for the safety of the pedestrian.

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