Eagleswood crash

A Stafford Township woman and a Tuckerton man died as a result of a driver losing consciousness and crashing his SUV into Calloway’s Restaurant & Bar in Eagleswood Township on Aug. 9.

Thomas P. Costello / Asbury Park Press

A double-fatal car crash in early August in Eagleswood Township was just the start of a deadly month on the roads of Ocean County, with five fatal crashes so far, taking the lives of six people.

The Aug. 9 single-car crash in Eagleswood killed a Stafford Township woman and a Tuckerton man when the driver lost consciousness.

Then, three people died in three separate crashes in Toms River and Brick Township over a five-day span. On Thursday, a 3-year-old girl rode her bicycle into the street in Lakewood and was fatally struck by a driver.

While the numbers are jarring, State Police Sgt. Jeff Flynn said it’s too early to draw any conclusions as to why there are so many deadly crashes.

“We’ll look for particular trends in an area,” Flynn said. “The numbers ebb and flow, and we can’t really have a good picture until the end of the year.”

Flynn said he can’t speak for any areas that are patrolled by local police departments.

Right now, Ocean County leads the state in motor vehicle fatalities this year. The number of fatal crashes as of Aug. 24 was nearly as high as the total for 2016. But those numbers don’t match statewide statistics.

Year-to-date, the number of fatal crashes in New Jersey is down over 2016, 336 versus 356. And fatalities statewide are down 19 percent over 2016 year-to-date.

According to State Police statistics, there were 34 fatalities in 33 motor vehicle accidents in Ocean County so far this year. In 2016, there were 41 fatalities in 39 crashes throughout the whole year. Statistics since 2010 show the county has consistently ranked in the top five for motor vehicle fatalities.

A majority of the Ocean County fatalities — seven — occurred on Route 70. The road with the second-highest number of fatalities was the Garden State Parkway with six.

The deadliest municipality was Lakewood Township with 11 fatalities, followed by Toms River with five. Lakewood police did not respond to a request for comment.

In Atlantic County, there have been 21 fatalities in 20 crashes this year, the most recent on Monday on the Black Horse Pike in Folsom, where a car fatally struck a pedestrian. The county ranks ninth in fatal crashes this year.

In 2016, Atlantic County had 40 fatalities in 30 crashes, 13 of which were pedestrian fatalities.

So far this year, the deadliest road in Atlantic County is the Black Horse Pike, which includes Routes 322 and 40. There were four fatal crashes on the state highway this year. Hamilton Township had the most fatalities with seven, followed by Galloway Township with six and Egg Harbor Township with five.

“In 2016, the township experienced eight fatal motor vehicle crashes. Over the past five years, the township has averaged approximately five fatal motor vehicle crashes per year,” Hamilton Township police Detective Frank Schalek said.

Schalek said local police haven’t determined any roads to be “more dangerous” than any other in the township.

“Educating the public on the dangers of driving is part of our daily function,” Schalek said. “Traffic enforcement through verbal warning and written summons help educate drivers and hopefully change behaviors.”

There are things drivers and pedestrians can do to be safer, he said.

“Drivers should always follow the laws of the road and be aware of their surroundings. Drivers are always asked to drive defensively,” Schalek said.

Flynn said avoiding distractions is the best thing people can do while driving or walking.

“Put the cellphones down. Anything can really be a distraction when you’re driving,” he said, adding to always wear a seat belt. “The best advice we can give people is to walk on sidewalks if possible, cross at pedestrian crosswalks. We shouldn’t forget as adults the simple practice of looking both ways before you cross the street.”

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609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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