CLIFTON, NJ — Statistics from the United States Department of Transportation show that in New Jersey, traffic fatalities rose 13.7 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.
New Jersey roads are more dangerous than they have been in more than a decade, and drivers tell CBS2’s Nick Caloway they’ve noticed it.
“It’s crazy. There are a lot of people driving very recklessly,” Passaic resident Dayne Garabito said.
Some motorists CBS2 spoke to say that since the pandemic, people are more aggressive behind the wheel.
“You can tell. I’ve seen so many accidents while driving and I’ve avoided a few as well,” said Wanaque resident Maria Rodriguez.
The police noticed the same thing. They say it started at the start of the pandemic when the roads were almost empty.
“During this time, people were going much faster. They weren’t watching some traffic lights like they used to,” Passaic Deputy Police Chief Louis Gentile said.
He says that even though pre-pandemic traffic is back, many people haven’t slowed down.
“We’re creatures of habit, so when we get familiar with something, it takes a bit of time to readapt,” he said.
As of Thursday, New Jersey had as many as 440 road deaths this year.
“The most tragic part about this, Nick, is that pretty much all of it is preventable,” said New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan.
He said there were several reasons for the increase in road deaths: speeding, alcohol, drugs and distracted driving.
Additionally, approximately 50% of traffic fatalities involve someone who was unrestrained.
Callahan said it was personal responsibility.
“It’s speeding, it’s seatbelt, it’s not drunk driving. The amount of ridesharing services we have now compared to even a decade ago, there’s absolutely no excuse for driving an automobile while under the influence or while impaired,” he said.
It’s not just motorists who are dying in large numbers. So far this year, 103 pedestrians have been killed in New Jersey. Officials say the trend is at an all-time high.
The same study found that the death toll on New York’s roads is up nearly 48% this year compared to the same time last year.