Bill would increase penalties on drivers who strike pedestrians

TRENTON – Drivers who strike a pedestrian who is crossing a street could face higher fines if the accident results in a fatality, according to a proposed bill that cleared a Senate panel Monday.

Lawmakers released a proposal from committee that would increase fines against drivers who cause serious bodily harm to pedestrians hit by motorists. Currently, drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk could be slapped with a $200 fine. Under the proposed bill, S1354, drivers can be fined up to $500 for seriously injuring a pedestrian.

A court could also impose a 25-day prison sentence for accidents that result in a fatality.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously to release the legislation without any recommendation. Lawmakers voiced concerns with the proposal after they said it did not clearly stipulate between hitting a pedestrian who crosses at a crosswalk versus striking someone who crosses the street in an unmarked crosswalk or by jaywalking.

“It’s one thing to be in a marked crosswalk and it’s another thing to be in an unmarked crosswalk,” said Sen. Nick Sacco, (D-32), the committee’s chairman, adding he is worried about pedestrians who walk out into the street “without concern for traffic.”

“I know in New Jersey the pedestrian always has the right of way,” he said, explaining while the “bill has its merits” he would like to see a stipulation in the proposal between jaywalking and crossing at a crosswalk.

“Even I don’t know what I’m going to do when the bill comes up for a vote in the Senate,” he added, speaking of the bill under the current language.

Bill would increase penalties on drivers who strike pedestrians