TRANSPORTATION

Traffic Fatalities Fall in New Jersey, Rise Nationally

The fatal accident involving a dump truck on the New Jersey Turnpike yesterday is the latest in a string of crashes throughout the Garden State. Nationwide an estimated 16,290 people died in motor vehicle crashes for the first half of this year, up 9 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

New Jersey has had 415 fatal crashes this year, resulting in 436 fatalities.

“Driving is the number one dangerous activity that people do,” said Steve Rajczyk, manager of public and government services for AAA North Jersey.

The number of car accident fatalities in New Jersey is down this year from the same period in 2011 when 465 people lost their lives in auto accidents. Rajczyk thinks those figures prove the safe-driving messages are resonating with drivers.

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“We are having more of an emphasis on teen driver safety, so that I think is reflecting that we are showing some fruits of our efforts,” he said.

Still Rajczyk insists additional highway signs and safe-driving education is critical, especially among the younger population. This year 16 people lost their lives in car accidents on the Garden State Parkway. Half of those victims were under 30 years old and the majority of them were males.

“While there may be a decline and we know the data indicates the decline in the actual number of accident victims, we’ve actually seen a higher index of the severity of injuries and in particular it’s attracting our younger population, mostly males,” Chief of Spinal Surgery at Jersey Shore University Medical Center Dr. Michael Lospinuso said.

Car accidents victims are rushed to Jersey Shore University Medical Center’s trauma center, sometimes transported by helicopter where they land directly above the emergency room.

“It’s the worst part of my job, to tell a family that we’ve kept their young child alive, but yet he’s a quadriplegic or a paraplegic,” Lospinuso said.

Lospinuso says medical advancements are improving a victim’s chances of survival.

“With the medical facilities that we have, particularly at our trauma center, it allows us to identify those unique type of injuries, those high level of severity injuries where in the past these patients would have expired on the field,” he said.

AAA’s Rajczyk says in order ensure the number of auto fatalities continue to decline in New Jersey the governor has to take the lead in promoting safe driving in the hopes that drivers will pay attention to the message.

Lauren Wanko reports from Neptune.