Princeton intends to be a ‘Street Smart’ town

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The “Street Smart” program

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton will be the next stop for a statewide public education campaign aimed at cutting down on the number of pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes in a state among the tops in the nation for pedestrian fatalities.
Mayor Liz Lempert on Thursday joined representatives of the police department, the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association and others to announce the launch of the “Street Smart” program, set to begin Oct.4. The effort will involve a mix of education and enforcement, with street signs, posters and tip cards around town, organizers said.
Mayor Lempert said the campaign is a reminder that “safety needs to be number one in all of our minds.”
“It’s better to be a little bit late than to have something tragic happen,” she said.
Cheryl Kastrenakes, executive director of Greater Mercer TMA, pointed to the high number of car crashes involving motorists and pedestrians across New Jersey. According to the state Attorney General’s Office, New Jersey had 173 pedestrian fatalities in 2015 — a figure equating to 31 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities.
“We know that, nationally, pedestrian fatalities are actually one of the few types of accidents that are on the rise,” police Chief Nicholas K. Sutter said.
Numbers for Princeton showed, that during the span of 2013 to 2015, 55 pedestrian crashes and one killed.
He said Princeton, a community that embraces pedestrians and bicyclists, also has “heavy motor vehicle traffic.” Often, accidents become a blame game in which motorists and pedestrians point the finger at one another.
“We find these different pedestrians and motorists blaming the other for accidents that take place,” he continued, “when really it’s an educational component, where if everybody knows their role and how to be safe, we can all occupy the same space safely.”
Organizers provided safety tips such as urging pedestrians to cross the street in crosswalks and look both ways when crossing, among other steps. Motorists are reminded that they must stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.
Police said night is when pedestrians are more at risk and need to be more careful due to what Chief Sutter called “visibility issues.” Typically, accidents involving pedestrians and motorists occur when pedestrians jaywalk, motorists don’t yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk or when pedestrians enter a crosswalk when a car is too close to stop, he said.
“I think it’s very important for pedestrians to know,” Chief Sutter said, “they’re only protected when that vehicle has time to stop.”
During Street Smart, police and representatives of Greater Mercer TMA will be interacting with the public, with an emphasis on five key areas, including the traffic circle near Princeton University’s Forbes College and the mid-block crosswalk on Witherspoon Street by the Princeton Public Library.
Princeton is the 12th municipality in the state and first in Mercer County to have a Street Smart campaign, said Zenobia L. Fields, department director of planning with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, which runs the program. 