Pennsauken Police Stress Vehicle, Pedestrian Safety
At the end of March, the Pennsauken community mourned the loss of high school student Quason Turner, who was tragically killed as he crossed Rt. 130. A few days later, Norman Schultz of Philadelphia was killed crossing Rt. 70 by McClellan Ave.
In the last 39 months, there have been 11 traffic-related fatalities in Pennsauken. Nine of them have been pedestrians, with most occurring on major highways. The Pennsauken Police Department shares the sentiment of the Pennsauken community that it’s 11 too many.
“That’s huge,” says Sgt. Chris Sulzbach of the Pennsauken Police Department’s Traffic Division. “We have five state highways in this town. When it comes to traffic accidents, we pretty much cover the gambit here.”
“When we talk about accident investigation, we talk about approximate causes,” adds Captain Thomas Connor. “Pedestrians have fault in their own deaths. But that does not mean that the motorist could not have done something to prevent it too.”
Connor and Sulzbach went on to explain that there are variety of factors that result in a traffic accident involving a pedestrian. But if you had to break it down into two factors, it’s a combination of speed and the misconception of awareness that leads to these deadly accidents.
“The average speed of a person walking is three and a half miles an hour. A car at 60 miles an hour is going 90 feet per second; that’s a football field every three seconds,” explains Connor. “Things can happen very quickly. By the time you perceive a car traveling at that speed, you probably can’t avoid it.”
“For a driver in good health, the perception and reaction time is 1.5 seconds,” adds Sulzbach. “They see something, take their foot off the accelerator, and hit the break. That’s 1.5 seconds. That’s the best case scenario. That’s a long time.”
“So if you’re traveling at 60 miles per hour, you will have traveled 360 feet before you even try to activate the break,” continued Connor. “The physics of it are inescapable. It can’t be altered.”
The Pennsauken Police asks residents, whether they are walking or driving, to keep the following in mind.
Things Move Faster Than You Think
For pedestrians, perception is not reality, especially when it comes to crossing a street or highway at night.
“When you’re crossing that roadway, the perception of that car coming toward you, especially at night when all you see are headlights, is inaccurate. They don’t think it’s going to get there that fast,” explains Sulzbach. “That’s why a lot of our pedestrians get hit. They don’t realize that car is coming. They can’t determine how quick the car is coming.”
At the vehicle end of the equation, drivers need to realize that it’s not just speeding that can cause fatalities in pedestrians.
“People have a false impression of how much speed is needed to kill a pedestrian,” says Connor. “You’re going to have critical injuries and maybe death at 25 miles per hour or more.”
Things Are Tougher In The Dark
While plenty of accidents happen in the day, nighttime cause its own unique problems, particularly when pedestrians wear dark clothes. The Pennsauken Police strongly encourage pedestrians who walk at night to wear bright and reflective clothing.
“There’s a perception among pedestrians, especially among younger people, that they’re way more visible than they actually are,” says Connor.
Don’t Get Distracted
According to Pew Research, More than half of all adult cell phone owners – 53 percent – have been on the giving or receiving end of a distracted walking encounter. And information from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, the only nationwide probability-based observed data on driver electronic device use in the United States, conducted annually by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, indicates that approximately 660,000 American drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. Looking down at your phone means that you’re not looking at what’s happening on the road, or who’s stepping off the curb.
“I’m sitting at the light at Cove Rd. about four or five months ago, headed to the police station,” says Sulzbach. “I watched a pedestrian on his phone. He crossed over 130 and gets nailed by a car right in front of me, thrown up in the air 15 feet. He comes down; I’m thinking he’s dead. Thank God he survived. I watched the whole thing right in front of me. He was on his phone and wasn’t paying attention to traffic.”
“People who are talking or texting on a phone look like drunk drivers,” adds Connors. “They swerve on the road and drive erratically.”
The Police Are A Resource
The Traffic Division of the Pennsauken Police Department is a great resource for residents regarding pedestrian and driver safety. Officers from the Traffic Department instruct other organizations regarding traffic safety issues and often speak at schools and community groups.
“The residents in this town have the best resource available to them: the traffic division in this police department,” says Connor. “It’s as good as any in the state of New Jersey.”
To have the Pennsauken Police Department’s Traffic Division speak to your school or community group, call (856) 488-0080.