Half of the 16 people killed in accidents on the Garden State Parkway this year were under age 24, a recent state report on the roadway’s fatal accidents shows.
That fact had state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson calling for a thorough review of the accident data during a Tuesday meeting of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in Woodbridge, Middlesex County.
Simpson, who said he was shocked when he reviewed the numbers, vowed to involve officials at the state DOT and State Police in determining whether a more aggressive driver safety program is necessary.
“It’s young, inexperienced male drivers,” Simpson said. “Let’s have a laser-like focus on this. This could be like a test tube for maybe the rest of the state. We’ve got a confined area. We know where the problem is. …We can control the parkway more than we can control the whole state.”
The authority’s resume of fatal accidents shows eight of the 16 fatalities involved a death of someone between the ages of 19 and 23. A ninth accident involved a 27-year-old driver. All but one of the deceased were male.
Seven of the nine accidents occurred between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Three occurred south of the Toms River toll plaza in Ocean County.
All of the accidents took place between a Friday and a Monday, with July being the deadliest month. Five people died in accidents on the parkway that month, and three of those who died were under 24.
“It seems to me ... if you took anyone basically 19 to 29 off the road between midnight and 6 a.m. on the parkway, you cut your fatalities in half,” Simpson said. “I know we can’t do that, but maybe we need to educate parents, and we need to educate the drivers (about) how risky it is.”
Simpson said he had not yet reviewed comparable data for the New Jersey Turnpike, which the authority also operates, but he said it would be hard to generate an education effort based on that roadway because it is primarily used by truckers and interstate commuters.
“The parkway is like a local road. It’s like the main street of people who live on the Jersey Shore,” Simpson said. “These folks might be going from a friend’s house or a party to get back on the parkway to get home.”
The turnpike’s fatal accident report provided to The Press of Atlantic City shows that of 17 fatal accidents on the roadway this year, two of the deceased were in their 20s, and no teens died.