NJ’s Safe Passing Law Aims to Safeguard Non-Vehicle Travelers and Set Guidelines to Prevent Accidents With Bikers, Walkers, and Others Sharing the Road
On March 1, 2022, New Jersey’s Safe Passing Law was enacted. As New Jersey citizens bike or walk more frequently, whether to improve their health or reduce their carbon footprint, more safety measures have concerned the legislature and the layman. This law gives specific rules of action to be taken by motorists to ensure the safety of those who choose a manner of transportation that isn’t motorized. The law was labeled “Oscar’s Law” after Metuchen resident 44-year-old Oscar Zanoni was struck while riding his electric bicycle in Edison on Route 27. Oscar was killed in the hit-and-run accident involving a tractor-trailer while riding his bike in the mid-morning hours, and as he passed a gas station, a truck pulled out, unwittingly striking him and ultimately causing Oscar’s death. Oscar was a near-celebrity in Metuchen, a small borough in Middlesex County. He was active in the community and had a passion for his three dogs, whom he could be seen walking several times a day through the small town’s center. This small town of 15,000 residents is proud of its downtown, main street appeal, and curb appeal of its houses. It was recently named among the towns that form a part of the prestigious Great American Street Award.
Safe Passing Law Considered a Necessity to Protect NJ Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety
Metuchen residents, as those of many other boroughs, have an ever-growing population of pedestrians and bike riders whose safety is of great concern to the legislature and community at large. The New Jersey State Police Fatal Crash Statistics for 2021 show 223 pedestrians and 39 cyclists, making it the deadliest year for the vulnerable population in three decades. The year 2023 lists 172 pedestrian and 23 cyclist deaths reported on New Jersey’s roads in that year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that New Jersey had a 24% increase in pedestrian deaths during 2011-2021, nearly double that of the national average (14%). The mortality rate for New Jersey pedestrians in 2021 was 2.37 per 100,000 people. Bicycle rider fatalities surged from 9 in 2011 to 41 in 2021.
New Jersey Safe Passing Law in a Nutshell
This law aims to encourage a cultural shift in driver’s habits by highlighting the right of people not in a vehicle to travel freely and safely. The law’s supporters hope to prevent injuries and deaths when drivers aren’t cautious with cyclists, pedestrians, and other road users. It gives guidelines as to how to pass a vulnerable person safely. Pedestrians, riders who use bicycles, electric scooters, wheelchairs, hoverboards, and electric skateboards, comprise what is referred to as the vulnerable population.
Regulations for Drivers Interacting with Vulnerable Road Users on NJ Roads
Drivers must approach pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-motorized vehicles cautiously, providing a distance of at least four feet between themselves and the other person to pass them safely. If there are two lanes in the driver’s direction, they must move over to pass the vulnerable people using the second lane. If there is no lane to pass into or a berth of 4 feet is not possible to pass, the driver must slow down to 25 miles per hour and wait for an opportunity to pass safely. The driver should be prepared to stop if the situation calls for it. If there is a painted bike lane, the four-foot rule is based on the distance between the vehicle and the rider, not the lane itself.
A fine of $100 is assessed for violating the law; if there is bodily injury, there is a $500 fine and 2 points on the at-fault driver’s license.
Right to Unrestricted Movement for All
The most crucial right everyone has is to move about freely. Motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians pay government taxes and contribute to road construction and maintenance. It is true that the gas tax pays for a portion of the roads in New Jersey, but sales and income taxes do, too.
It is the right of all residents to travel safely, whether it is by car or other means. Cars are moving battle rams and can cause fatalities when caution isn’t exercised. Looking out for other drivers also means ensuring everyone on the road has the right to safely travel to and from their destination.
Ensuring Road Safety Through Adherence to Traffic Regulations
One of the best ways to protect everyone on the road is to respect traffic signs and signals. Stop at the traffic light behind the marked crosswalk, and when the light turns green, be sure the crosswalk is clear. Respect bike lanes by not driving or parking in them. Cyclists need that space to ride safely and avoid accidents.
Staying abreast of new traffic laws, such as this one, is essential. It is a good idea to review the rules if you are doubtful. Maybe the driving course you took in high school 30 years ago could use some updated material.
Always yield to pedestrians. Sometimes, there is no crosswalk, or a pedestrian crosses arbitrarily (jaywalking). Be extremely cautious when driving near a school or close to a school bus. It is illegal to pass a stopped bus.
There are other important driving rules whether or not you are attempting to pass a vulnerable person. Use your turn signal so that those around you know your intentions. They can decide based on your indication of what you will do. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. Put the phone down, save your snack for later, and focus on the road. An infinite number of things can happen in a split second when you are driving, so stay alert.
Probably the most crucial point when talking about road safety is patience. Accidents are frequently caused when impatience wins and risks are taken to save a few minutes. In our society, everything seems to be a click away. We have instant shopping, food delivery, banking, and many others. A 30-second wait while someone crosses the street against the light will not make anyone seriously late. It is said that patience is a virtue. Be virtuous, and the families of those around you will have you to thank for keeping their loved ones safe.
A Comprehensive NJ Post-Accident Protocol
After the police have been called, the first responders should check out all parties involved. Getting medical attention will create a record that can be used later to justify medical treatment. It is valuable to remember that sometimes injuries do not manifest themselves until hours or days have passed, so go to a doctor if any symptoms appear. If possible, take pictures or video of the accident scene and ask witnesses for their contact information. Request the incident report from law enforcement as well.
Speak to Our Hamilton Injury Lawyers if You Have Been Injured by a Negligent Driver
Whether you are a motorist or use an alternative form of transportation, such as walking or biking, your rights after an accident must be protected. At Cohen & Riechelson, our attorneys have years of experience in personal injury cases like yours in Hopewell, Hightstown, Lambertville, Lawrence, Burlington, West Windsor, Hamilton, Trenton, Princeton, and throughout Mercer County and surrounding areas in New Jersey. We know the law and are ready to make our knowledge work for you.
Accidents are frightening and anxiety-inducing. Medical bills, missed work, future medical treatments, or surgeries loom overhead as you wonder who will pay for it all. Our excellent negotiators can get you the resources you require to heal and rest.
If you have been in an accident or know someone who has, call us today at (609) 528-2596 or contact us through our online contact form. Remember, the statute of limitations on these types of cases is only two years, so the sooner we get started, the better.