Hey, see that orange flag? I'm crossin' here

Wed Feb 6, 2013 5:10pm EST

Feb 6 (Reuters) - In New Jersey, where the roadways seem endless and aggressive drivers are not unknown, one burg has a low-cost plan to cut down on pedestrian deaths. The Borough of Metuchen intends to arm pedestrians with bright orange flags to wave furiously while crossing its streets.

The scheme to keep walkers safe in Metuchen, where an average of one pedestrian is struck each month, eventually may include flashing lights at crosswalks, said Tyreen Reuter, a member of the borough traffic and transportation advisory committee. But with municipal budgets tight, the flags are a no-brainer.

"The flashing lights cost about $80,000 each; the flags are $1.25," said Reuter, a mother of two children who she said were nearly mowed down by a driver, prompting her to take action. "It's incredibly low-tech and incredibly cheap."

While aggressive driving is a national problem, public safety officials in New Jersey acknowledge it is especially prevalent there.

"Tension among motorists is particularly high in New Jersey, which is the most densely populated state in the country," according to a post on the highway safety section of the New Jersey Attorney General's website.

In Middlesex County, where Metuchen is located, 37 pedestrians were struck and killed between 2008 and 2010, said Bill Neary, head of a non-profit transportation management organization called Keep Middlesex Moving.

To save lives and limbs, buckets stocked with one-square-foot bright orange flags are being installed at crosswalks in the central New Jersey borough of 13,600 people. The program is scheduled to take effect this month.

One possible glitch: Critics have raised the possibility of all the flags ending up on one side of the street or simply being stolen. (Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Ciro Scotti)

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