New Jersey - In the state, 748 people died in traffic accidents last year, up 3.5 percent from the 723 who died in 2004, and Ocean County had 41 recorded motor vehicle fatalities, according to the New Jersey State Police. Officials say many of these deaths easily could have been avoided. Across the state, many pedestrian deaths are caused by ignorance of signs and traffic lights, or recklessness, such as hopping the divider of a four-lane highway rather than crossing at a crosswalk, said Roberto Rodriguez, director of the New Jersey Division of Highway and Traffic Safety. To combat this, Gov. Corzine announced the creation of a $74 million, five-year initiative to improve pedestrian safety across the state, most of this money will not be used for public works construction projects. Rather, the money will be doled out in the form of various grants to local police departments to help pay for pedestrian safety and “enforcement” - the cost of added patrols and police overtime. Why Ocean county’s roads are such a challenge to pedestrian safety? State and local officials cited a variety of reasons. Some are unique to the communities in which very active highways are located. For example, in Lakewood, some pedestrian deaths and injuries have been the result of motorists accidentally striking members of the traditionally dark-clad Orthodox Jewish community at night. Police have the same problem with men and women in business attire trying to dart across the highway at night — for a motorist, it can be very difficult to spot a person crossing a road who is wearing dark clothing, they say.
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