Ocean County DWI Update: Could Rise in Fatal Traffic Accidents Influence Anti-Drunken Driving Enforcement

For those who may wonder why traffic enforcement seems higher in certain parts of the Garden State than others, the answer may be reflected in the simple statistics associated with drunk driving-related roadway collisions, perhaps especially those associated with fatal DWI crashes. According to a news article we recently ran across, Ocean County, NJ, ranks close to the top of all New Jersey counties in terms of deadly drunken driving accidents.

As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, we are all too aware of the frequency of DWI and drug DUI arrests across our state. And although our job is to represent those individuals who have been accused of driving while under the influence of beer, wine, hard liquor, prescription and illegal drugs, we understand the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol or controlled dangerous substances (CDS).

The report that we saw earlier this summer noted that the roads over in Ocean County have consistently seen some of the worst car accidents for almost any area in the Garden State. Because of this dubious distinction, county officials have reportedly been striving to remedy what the statistics seem to indicate. For example, through the first week of June, county accident data showed that 29 total fatalities had been recorded since the beginning of 2013.

In all, over the first five months of the year, there had been 26 fatality-related car and truck collisions resulting in those 29 deaths. While not every one of those collisions resulted from a drunken driver, the increased awareness of the deadly trend may be more than enough to increase the amount of anti-DWI road enforcement and sobriety checkpoints in the future.

Compared to previous years, 2013 appears to be on track to exceed the fatality totals of recent years. Based on official data, Ocean County racked up 54 fatal traffic accident deaths back in 2010, which was reportedly the highest in the state for that year. In the two years following 2010, county accident records showed little change in the annual death toll on Ocean County roadways. For 2011, there were 52 deaths followed by 53 fatalities in 2012. Only Middlesex County had more fatal car wrecks in those two years.

As the sixth most populous New Jersey county, it may not be surprising that Ocean would have one of the highest traffic death rates; however, it is instructive to note that Middlesex is the second most populated county yet barely it edged out Ocean County in traffic deaths during recent years. Needless to say, the focus on traffic safety in these counties will likely be greater as time goes on.

What must be even more disturbing for Ocean County authorities, as well as safety advocates and police department officials, is that the number of total traffic fatalities statewide has reportedly declined in five of the past six years. Meanwhile, based on news reports at the time, nobody had been able to determine the exact cause of the increase in Ocean County crashes.

One theory is that Ocean County’s closeness to Atlantic City and its 24/7 casino and entertainment action. Considering this, it would not be unusual for police and county officials to look at the possible incidence of late-night travel, distracted driving, fatigued motorists and alcohol consumption as contributing at least in part to the frequency of deadly automobile accidents in this part of the state.

Since, historically, Ocean County has always had a reputation for being one of the top three counties for traffic deaths, there will probably continue to be some fatalities, whether alcohol-related or not, regardless of how much officials try to increase roadway safety. As drivers ourselves, we know that some of the county’s roads, such as Rte 9, offer more than their share of opportunities for traffic accidents, if only because there are many two-lane highways carrying much more traffic than when they were built in the early 20th century.

For anyone concerned about the dangers lurking on New Jersey roadways, in Ocean County some experts point to Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Twp. as having a fair share of traffic fatalities. In fact, back in February of this year, that stretch of highway was named one of the deadliest roads in the Garden State in terms of pedestrian deaths, according to a study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. As for Rte 9, it was also designated the sixth-deadliest roadway in the same report, having seen six fatal roadway deaths from 2009 through 2011.

Ocean County ranks near top in state for fatal crashes, PressofAtlanticCity.com, June 11, 2013