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Mayor to Drivers: Police Are Watching You Too

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said Thursday the Fort Lee Police Department is deploying undercover cops to catch drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians, not just cracking down on jaywalkers.

On the same day the Chief of Police announced a crackdown on jaywalkers, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said the is also cracking down on drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians legally crossing the borough’s streets.

Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas O. Ripoli Thursday morning to urge drivers and pedestrians to remain vigilant and follow traffic laws or face $85 fines, saying the police have been ticketing jaywalkers lately.

But Sokolich said Thursday evening at the Fort Lee Mayor and Council’s regular meeting that drivers had better beware as well, saying, “There are decoy police that are out each and every day at most troubled intersections.”

“You’ve been hearing about efforts here in the Borough of Fort Lee to protect our pedestrians,” Sokolich said. “There have been injuries, and there have been deaths. And our Fort Lee Police Department has instituted an initiative to make sure that cars are stopping for pedestrians.”

He said his message to pedestrians is to be vigilant, conscious and to “make sure that you walk within the crosswalks, and you do it safely so we can avoid any injury and/or deaths.”

But Sokolich saved his strongest words for drivers, “whether you are from Fort Lee or not.”

“You are to yield to our pedestrians, and you are to obey those traffic laws,” Sokolich said. “Once somebody is on that pedestrian crosswalk, it is state law that you come to a full and complete stop; bottom line. And that person has to be completely off before you continue.”

Sokolich told Patch after Thursday's meeting that he recently watched one undercover police officer patrolling a crosswalk—walking back-and-forth across the street—that happens to be in front of his law office on Anderson Avenue.

“An actual undercover officer, notoriously and obviously, in regular, plain clothes—bright so people can see—would walk out into the middle of the crosswalk, and if a car didn’t stop, then he would raise his hand, and then at the next corner, the driver would be ticketed,” Sokolich said. “You cannot believe what people do here in Fort Lee, to the point that this guy is just a pedestrian, and cars are going within two feet of him. They deserve a ticket if that’s what they’re going to do.”

He also said pedestrians have to “be smart” and “use common sense” as well, getting across crosswalks in a timely manner and not using cell phones or other things that can distract them when they’re crossing the street, but that the idea that there's a “crackdown on jaywalkers” may be a bit misleading.

“I’ve indicated to the chief to use the utmost discretion, and only the most egregious of offenders will get jaywalking tickets,” Sokolich said. “If somebody is off the crosswalk with a cup of coffee, on the cell phone, completely inattentive of what is going on and requires a car to suddenly swerve, that person might get a ticket.”

During the meeting, Sokolich said he watched the officer outside his office for about three hours in part because he wanted to make sure “everyone was being treated fairly and respectfully.”

“And I’m proud to tell you that they were,” he said.

Tracy May 11, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Glad to hear this too!
Art Elmers May 11, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Thanks for clearing up a question I had. The problem I had was the difference between Yield and Stop. Even Mayor Sokolich sometimes use either as in the first sentence of this article "cracking down on drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians". He later states correctly that drivers must completely STOP. The law and PSA video available on the internet also show that the driver must stay completely STOPPED until the pedestrian completely crosses the intersection and steps out of the crossing. Again I relate what happened to me last friday on Anderson Ave. I stopped for an older woman and what looked to be her young grandson. The vehicle behind me passed me on the right and almost hit the pedestrians. Drivers must be taught that I didn't just stop at the intersection for the hell of it. Since it was a T intersection there was no left turn possible, so they can't use the excuse that they thought I just forgot to use my turn signal. If they insist on totally ignoring these traffic laws they deserve to be ticketed. Since a Public Service Announcement is available I think the Mayor should request that Time Warner show it on a regular basis. If people start obeying these traffic laws maybe we will reduce pedestrian accidents.
Mike May 11, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Hmmm, does that mean that even when Fort Lee Police Officers that don't yield, they also will be ticketed or spoken to? I do observe this in and around town that our own Police Department do not yield to their own traffic rules.
Howard L. Pearl May 11, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Every morning at 7:30 AM in front of the Fort Lee High School, driving chaos prevails. Drivers make U-turns in the middle of Lemoine Avenue, cutting off on-coming traffic and endangering the children crossing to the school. If a police officer were stationed there in the morning, parents might be somewhat more cautious. It is not always about tickets to raise money for the town coffers. A few warnings to some of these drivers might go a long way to insuring the safety of our children.
Arya F. Jenkins May 11, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Glad to know that finally measures are being taken to ensure the safety of pedestrians and drivers in Fort Lee. I applaud the mayor's recent efforts and the recent concerted efforts of The Fort Lee Police Department. No doubt, the undercover police will have to be careful too, particularly at that Anderson intersection, which I cross both on foot and in a car every day. More than inattention, it's impatience that keeps drivers from respecting the rights of people on crosswalks. Only rarely does a driver stop to let me cross Anderson, to and from Fairway Market. Usually, it's a bus driver. Everyone else takes the attitude of "I'm bigger and better and driving metal, so I get to go first." More than negative attitudes and arrogance about drivers and pedestrians, it's the general lack of respect for life that concerns me. And how do you change that? Kids have to be trained to show kindness and civility so they don't grow up to bully their classmates, and, once they start driving, people on the road. People in communities have to start caring for one another. We're not just inhabiting the same space. We're friends, relatives, comrades. We breathe the same air, drink the same water and are interrelated. The way we view our community is the way we view the world. Let's respect it and cherish everyone.
Magda V. May 12, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Drivers and pedestrians have become more agressive in nature and both have to follow a common sense of awareness and judgement. This said, while drivers must put cell phones down and not text, so do pedestrians have to take the earplugs out of their ears and realize they are not walking in a bubble when walking. Pedestrians oftentimes not only jaywalk but text/talk while walking and do not pay attention. On another tangent, many bus drivers act immune to ANY type of law, often suddenly stopping and pulling out with no signals and bicyclists are yet another component to the hazards a driver encounter on the Lemoine//Sylvan Ave/9W (& on parallel Hudson Terrace!)
jp1 May 12, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Do you think this can happen in Ridgewood or do three people have to die?
One Hung Low June 14, 2012 at 10:30 PM
If people operating motor vehicles were more polite and courteous to other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, and stop driving like they are going to a fire to save people from a burning building, life would be more pleasant and safer for everyone. All the traffic laws in the world won't work when law enforcement is not around. But they are a good tool to rope in the reprobates who drive recklessly and carelessly without any regard for anyone.
Nice Jewish Boy from Fort Lee June 15, 2012 at 04:00 AM
I've been to Ridgewood, and yes people do get hit by automobiles in the crosswalks. It has everything to do with drivers' attitudes as OHL has said above.

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