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TRENTON - Legislation sponsored by Senators Sandra Bolden Cunningham and Richard J. Codey that would increase the penalties for a motorist who causes death of a pedestrian by failing to yield at a crosswalk was released yesterday by the Senate Transportation Committee.
"There is a current deficiency in the law that allows those who break crosswalk laws and kill pedestrians to walk away virtually scot-free," said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. "This legislation will help to correct that deficiency and to bring some form of justice to the victim's family."
The bill, S-1354, would change the state's pedestrian safety statute by adding a specific penalty for failing to yield at a crosswalk resulting in the death of a pedestrian. Under the bill, a person convicted of this violation would perform community service for up to six months and would pay a fine between $500 and $1000. Additionally, the court would be permitted to impose a sentence of up to 90 days in jail and/or suspend the driver's license for up to one year.
"A slap on the wrist and a few points on an offender’s license just isn't enough of a punishment when someone's life has been ended," said Senator Codey, D-Essex and Morris. "Drivers must take responsibility for their actions behind the wheel and when they disobey traffic laws, do not pay attention to the road or drive distractedly, terrible things can happen and they should be held accountable for the results."
A 2010 Bayonne incident where a car illegally passed another on the right, striking and killing Mary Tait of Bayonne inspired the legislation. The driver was charged with two traffic violations - careless driving and passing on the left - and received a couple points on his license. Mary Tait's family feels that he should have also been held liable for her death.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
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