This World Day of Remembrance remember those killed and help make our roads safer | Opinion
Dylan Weidenfeld, a talented 26-year-old from Jersey City, was a rising star in the acting world. His passion for the performing arts lit up local theater productions and left audiences in awe. But in the early hours of Monday, Oct. 16, his life and the lives of two others was tragically cut short in a horrific crash. Three others were seriously injured.
Incidents like the one that killed Dylan aren’t just unfortunate and unpredictable“accidents.” Roadway deaths in the U.S. have been rising rapidly in recent years, with over 46,000 people killed in 2022, a height not seen in over a decade, according to the National Safety Council.”
But we are not seeing such a rise in peer nations not seeing such a rise in peer nations. We know that with the right policies and with political will, these tragedies can be prevented. People like Dylan deserve to return home safely to their loved ones. We can and we must do better.
That’s why this Sunday, Nov. 19, we will join communities across the country to commemorate the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims to demand safe streets and to draw attention to the massive preventable trauma inflicted on Americans by roadway deaths and injuries.
Car crashes are a leading cause of preventable death, especially for our young people. We can change this, and part of what’s needed is greater visibility. Sadly, in every city and town in the U.S., there are victims just like Dylan who have paid the ultimate price for our lack of attention to the problem.
Our rallying cry is “Safe Streets For People,” because we know that if we design our streets and sidewalks to be safe for people on foot or on wheels, they will be safer for everyone. But too often, our public right-of-ways lack essential elements for safety: sidewalks, crosswalks, street lighting, not to mention proven traffic calming measures that can reduce speed, such as narrowed crossings and bike lanes.
We demand that New Jersey join other states like Washington and Connecticut in developing a statewide action plan to eliminate traffic deaths by 2040.
Copious evidence shows that adding these elements to our streets has a powerful effect on reducing crashes and serious injuries. For example, the Federal Highway Administration reports that “road diets” — projects that add safety elements to overly wide streets — reduce crashes by 19% to 47%. Not only do street safety projects reduce the incalculable toll of traffic deaths and injuries, they also make our cities and towns progressively more walkable and healthier, further improving safety in what advocates call a “virtuous cycle.”
Peer nations that take road safety more seriously, like New Zealand, have traffic death rates as low as one-fifth of ours. And even our neighbors in Canada are about half as likely to die in a crash.
The majority of crashes result from controllable factors like road design and vehicle safety. We can design roads that discourage high, dangerous speeds. We can ensure vehicles are built for the safety of everyone, including those outside cars. These are policy and design choices that we can demand.
On World Day of Remembrance, we pledge to remember, support and act. We call on New Jersey’s state senators to pass the Target Zero Senate Bill S2885, the companion to the bipartisan Assembly Bill A4296, which passed unanimously in June. Once signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, the bill will establish a Target Zero Commission to end the silence on traffic violence and create a Target Zero Action Plan to end fatalities and serious injuries on our roads by 2040.
Everyone knows someone who has been hurt or injured in a car crash. We have the tools to protect them. It’s time to begin the work of implementing them.
Sangeeta Badlani is an advocate for road safety. She lost her 11-year-old son Nikhil in 2011 in a car crash when the driver ran through a stop sign. Soon after she and her family formed the Nikhil Badlani Foundation and the Families for Safe Streets NJ chapter to prevent tragedies like theirs. She is also the co-founder of the Vision Zero NJ Alliance.