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‘Be Safe, Be Seen’ aims to make crossing streets safer, Fort Lee chief says

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

PUBLIC SAFETY: With the numbers of Fort Lee pedestrians struck by vehicles mounting, Fort Lee police today launched an official town-wide enforcement campaign targeting drivers who don’t yield and those who don’t cross the street where they should.

This includes seminars, cracking down on jaywalkers and drivers who aren’t mindful of pedestrians, and enhancing crosswalk signs and signals.

There will also be undercover officers acting as “decoy pedestrians” who will ticket motorists who don’t yield to those in crosswalks, Police Chief Keith Bendul said this morning.

Fort Lee police also have some special extras, he said:

Using confiscated drug money, Fort Lee police have bought clip-on reflector lights for pedestrians — which can go on anything from jackets to backpacks to purses to briefcases — to make people more visible to motorists. Whistles are also available. All can be picked up at police headquarters 24/7.

For motorists, police are distributing “See for Safety” ice scrapers. As Bendul noted: “Limited vision increases the risk of the driver striking a pedestrian or another car.”

The “Be Seen, Be Safe” Pedestrian Safety Campaign has the “full support” of the mayor and council, a response to a dozen struck pedestrians – one of them killed – in the first two months of 2013, Bendul said.

This comes after a particularly nasty year for pedestrians in the town’s busy, congested commercial district near the George Washington Bridge.

A similar campaign last year led to a host of summonses.

The “Be Seen, Be Safe” campaign is focusing on what Bendul called “the Three E(s) of traffic safety:

Public Education

“Community Policing Officer Kim and Traffic Bureau Officer Bialoblocki already conducted two seminars in January and in March at the Fort Lee Senior Center to educate senior residents on how to remain aware of their surroundings while walking to increase their safety,” said Bendul, who joined Traffic Supervisor Ricky Mirkovic for a building meeting on pedestrian safety last month.

Additional seminars are scheduled:

March 20 (11:30 a.m.): 475 Main Street (building residents only)
March 27 (7 p.m.): Fort Lee Community Center
April 10 (10:30 a.m.): Fort Lee Senior Center (FL Seniors only)

Police are also conducting safety seminars in the schools. Youngsters are receiving lights, blue rulers, and safety coloring books.

Enforcement

“Every uniformed officer is assigned a pedestrian detail or a traffic enforcement assignment on each shift,” Bendul said.

Jaywalkers will be ticketed – although, in some cases, police will issue a safety pamphlet or reflector instead, according to the chief.

Bendul also said the department “will conduct decoy pedestrian details throughout town where an officer in plain clothes will cross the street. Drivers [who] violate the statute by failing to stop for the pedestrian in the crosswalk with be stopped and [given] summonses by officers down the block.

“Individual officers in marked patrol cars, stealth cars and unmarked cars are employed in various traffic enforcement details 24/7/365.”

(Traffic) Engineering

Working with the Fort Lee DPW, police are surveying all stop signs, pedestrian crosswalk signs, and painted crosswalks in town.

“The locations are being reviewed and compared to the collision data in an effort to identify methods to increase visibility of the signs and crosswalks,” Bendul said.

“Last year the two departments worked together on a pilot program where crosswalks were illuminated with flashing lights,” the chief added. “An expansion of this program may be implemented once the winter weather is behind us and the devices can be installed.

“With the support of the Mayor & Council, the two departments are examining installing reflective sign post covers on specific stop sign posts and pedestrian sign posts in areas where there are pedestrian volume of pedestrians or a high number of collisions.”

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