When Bordentown’s law enforcers kicked off a grant-funded pedestrian safety operation in October last year, township and city officials said they intended to make a commitment to education and outreach on the importance of protection for residents traversing on foot through the area.
As the grant cycle’s funds come to a close this month, Bordentown Township Police Chief, Brian Pesce, reflected on the operation’s progress to stymie potential accidents in the area involving residents as part of the “Street Smart NJ” pedestrian safety campaign.
“We feel that it has really made an impact, and we have been able to [distribute] a lot of good information and a lot of great enforcement,” Pesce said. “We have improved our crosswalks – we added crosswalks and we added signage. We have tackled this from a multifaceted approach, and we have been very successful.”
The state-wide outreach program was intended to educate both pedestrians and motorists to “Check Your Vital Signs” to improve road safety. Motorists were advised to obey the speed limit and stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Pedestrians, in turn, were told to use crosswalks and wait for the walk-signal where applicable. A new “Heads Up, Phone Down” message was implemented as well to combat distracted driving and walking.
Funding for the initiative came from a $12,000 Pedestrian Safety and Education Grant from the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
Along with additional signage, local police conducted numerous pedestrian safety enforcement operations at problem crosswalk and intersection areas. The departments also partnered with Cross County Connection Transportation Management Association (CCCTMA) to assist with education, outreach and campaign materials, and identified areas where pedestrian crosswalks and signs should be installed.
“We definitely raised awareness in the township,” Pesce said. “When we decided to tackle this issue, we felt that education was going to be one of our most powerful weapons. We went out and conducted assemblies in the schools; we tried to target the young kids. In the beginning, we had educational moments where we go out and stand at intersections and hand out informational pamphlets where we reached 1,000 motorists in a weekend.”
The police also partnered with all 12 area hotel owners along Route 130 and Route 206, who agreed to display pedestrian safety posters and distribute pedestrian safety handouts to all their guests upon check-in.
Although local law enforcement aimed to address safety issues along the area’s main highways, Pesce noted that the campaign’s efforts then migrated into Bordentown’s residential locations for further outreach.
“Pedestrians are at risk of crossing [Route 130 and Route 206], so that was the initial demographic that we really wanted to focus on,” he said. “The campaign then grew into our residential areas where we are stopping cars and running details there. The residents are very ecstatic about that because these have been problems they have been dealing with for years.”
As part of the department’s efforts to conduct enforcement operations throughout the area, Pesce said that multiple motorists were occasionally stopped to find that they were in violation of laws regarding pedestrian safety. Throughout these stops, the police chief said that these moments served as an opportunity to further help spread information and awareness.
“We take time to visit with the [motorists], and each stop was several minutes long where we would educate them on what their responsibility is when it comes to pedestrians,” he said. “We felt comfortable and confident that when we leave those stops that we reached 50-75 motorists in any given day.”
Not only have local officials addressed issues regarding pedestrian safety at current points of interest, Pesce said that he is preparing to negate any potential risks at future road projects in the area as well.
When the township recently received a grant to conduct road work on Ward Avenue, Pesce said he took immediate action.
“We have a road resurfacing project that we just got a grant for on Ward Avenue, and one of the first things I did upon learning about this grant was I contacted the township engineer to make sure that we make the necessary crosswalks and that pedestrians are accounted for when we do these projects.”
Although Pesce said he was pleased with the positive results gained from local official’s efforts to execute the safety campaign in multiple facets, he pointed out that department will continue to carry out these operations beyond the grant’s funding cycle.
Pesce said that local officials have reapplied for the grant for next year given the benefits this campaign brought to the area. Regardless of external funding though, Pesce explained that Bordentown is an active area for pedestrians, so officials cannot spare a moment to enact their operations.
“The key is to not rest on our laurels,” he said. “We want to make this a priority. We learned that this is real important to our community. In this area, a lot of people want to be recreational whether they are out on their bikes; they are out exercising or walking to the park – that’s something we have to be responsive to as a police department.
“Even if we do or do not get the grant, we are still going to go out there and run these details. We are going to make sure that we are out there educating,” he added.
Moving forward, Pesce said that through his campaign, pedestrian safety will become a more pivotal aspect of his department’s day-to-day duties.
“There is a variety of ways that we can make improvements whether it’s through enforcement, education in our schools or engineering aspects of our roads,” he said. “The eye opener for us has been to see how important it is to our community, to see how active it is and how it has to be a focal point of our policing.”