Traffic fatalities down again in N.J.

Posted: January 31, 2014

Traffic fatalities fell to a record low in New Jersey last year, continuing a trend in which the number has been reduced by half since 1981.

In Pennsylvania, complete data are not available for 2013, but preliminary figures indicate last year's total may be the lowest recorded there, too.

Nationwide, traffic fatalities have been trending lower for decades since peaking in 1972 at 54,589.

In 2011, 32,367 people were killed in traffic accidents in the country, the fewest since 1949. The national number rose by about 4 percent in 2012 to 33,780; for the first half of 2013, deaths were lower by about 4 percent from the same period in 2012.

Safer vehicles, more seat-belt use, tougher drunken-driving laws, and restricted licenses for young drivers were among the reasons for the declining number of fatalities, experts said.

In 2013, 545 people were killed in traffic accidents in New Jersey, including 35 in Burlington County, 31 in Camden County, and 26 in Gloucester County. In 2012, 589 people died in New Jersey traffic accidents.

The previous low, since state police began recording traffic deaths, was in 2010, when 556 people died. In 2011, 627 people died.

By contrast, in 1981, 1,160 people were killed on New Jersey highways.

In Pennsylvania, Transportation Department officials said they expected 2013 death totals to be lower than the 1,310 recorded in 2012. Data for the first half of the year showed deaths on a pace to break the record low set in 2009, when 1,256 were recorded.

"It'll be good news if they are lower," said Jenny Robinson of AAA Mid-Atlantic in Philadelphia. "It appears that tougher laws on texting and on teen driver's licenses have been effective."

Robinson also noted that seat-belt use had increased, and drunken-driving laws had been changed to lower the amount of alcohol a driver can consume before being legally intoxicated.

Tough economic times for the last five years may also have contributed to declining traffic deaths by reducing the number of miles driven, she said.

"Crashes will go down when people are driving less," she said.

The biggest threat to traffic safety now appears to be distracted driving caused by motorists using cellphones, GPS units, and other electronic devices, the state police said.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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