Increased pedestrian fatalities are bolstering the number of traffic-related deaths in the state this year, despite an overall decrease in the number of traffic fatalities.
State Police statistics through Nov. 28 show New Jersey had five fewer traffic-related deaths compared with the same time last year.
However, the 533-death figure is bolstered by 24 more pedestrian deaths for the comparison period. The number of deaths among motor vehicle drivers and passengers, and bicyclists, decreased by 29 for the period.
In southern New Jersey, the number of traffic-related fatalities increased in Atlantic, Cumberland and Ocean counties during the comparison period. Traffic-related fatalities decreased in Cape May County.
The State Police statistics do not break out pedestrian deaths by county but provide an overall number for New Jersey.
Officials with the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety say they're frustrated by the increase in pedestrian deaths.
Division Director Pam Fischer said pedestrian fatalities are occurring despite state-run programs to increase pedestrian safety by stressing things such as using crosswalks and paying more attention to traffic.
"We've thrown the kitchen sink at it," she said.
State officials said the problem stems from a number of variables, including more people walking along busy roadways.
One particular area involves parts of the Route 9 corridor through Ocean County. State officials said that area represents a heavy mix of residential and commercial development.
Ocean County officials were unavailable for comment on the number of traffic-related deaths in their county.
Fischer said division officials will continue working with county and local officials to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths.
Should the overall state traffic-related fatality number come in less this year than it did in 2008, it would mark the second consecutive year of decline.
There were 597 traffic-related deaths in the state in 2008, or 127 fewer than in 2007.
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The graphic compares the number of traffic-related fatalities in the region, and statewide, for a period ending Nov. 28 of 2008 and 2009.