This state is a striking example of the old saying you can do a lot with a little. With only 8,722 square miles of land, it’s the fourth smallest state in the Union. But a population of 8.9 million calls it home. In general ranking, this is the 11th largest state population and, because of the shortage of land, the most densely populated state in America. This strip of land running along the Atlantic coastline also boasts the second highest average incomes for its population and the second-largest number of millionaires on a per capita basis. For those who can afford it, New Jersey is the place to live.
In terms of political and economic geography, the state is treated as part of the more general administrative region including New York and Philadelphia. New York is just on the other side of the Hudson River with the Delaware River forming the border with Pennsylvania. This produces the Gateway Region with high levels of commuting to the commercial and industrial centers. As a state, it had a GDP of about $487 billion in 2010. Despite the high level of urbanization, many areas remain relatively untouched. The Pine Barrens, an area of mystery exploited by some horror and thriller writers, is deeply wooded and there are lakes to match the endless sailing opportunities offered by the bays and harbors on the coast.
The most obvious problem is the level of congestion. This not only affects individual travelers, but also everyone in the freight and logistics business. This is not just a waste of time. It also leads to massive fuel waste as people get caught up in jams. Politically, this is a challenge. The state’s budget has been well sustained by a good flow of taxes from affluent residents, but the amount of work required to relieve congestion could not be afforded. It would require a tax increase. So, for now, the focus is on removing bottlenecks and improving emergency response times to clear crashes and breakdowns. In total, there are 431 miles of interstate in an overall total of 39,215 miles of public roads. Almost 73% of these roads are urban and 92% of all driving is in and around cities.
Following on the national trend, there are now slightly more women than men holding a driver’s license. Almost 6 million residents hold a license and it splits 51/49 in favor of women with vehicle registrations also shifting into female hands. The days of men being the principal owners and drivers are passing away. There are 4.4 million private vehicles registered, giving one car for every two people. Because of the importance of manufacturing and trade, there are 3.1 million trucks, and transport is a significant source of employment. Under the circumstances, it should not surprise that there are only 20,500 buses. Public transport is a lower priority in the cities albeit there are 1,580 miles of railroad track, three commuter rail, one light rail and one subway system to give some assistance to those without access to private transport. As a result, 12% of the workforce use public transport to get to work. Of the remainder, 81% drive, 4% use a bicycle or walk, and 3% work at home.
What do people drive?
The market for cars in the northeast of America tends to prefer “foreign” cars. This does not mean imported cars. In the majority of cases, the factories are in America, but owned and operated by foreign brands. New Jersey is no exception to this rule. In 2012, more Honda Accords were registered than any other make and model. This reflects Honda’s enduring reputation for reliability. The two runners-up in the registration competition were the Ford Escape and the Honda Civic.
The state has been more positive in drafting and enforcing laws to regulate driving. With so many people trying to go places on the roads, there’s a higher than average risk of accidents. As a result, in 2001 the state followed the trend of introducing a graduated driver’s license program. New Jersey is one of the few states to delay the issue of an unrestricted driver’s license until the age of eighteen.
Given the high density of traffic, there are tough laws against aggressive driving with both specific offenses and the option for the police officer to charge careless driving. There’s also a real push to enforce laws against distracted driving. The use of cellphones and texting are particular targets. There’s a bill proposing to ban snacking while driving. The intention is to outlaw all activities not directly controlling the speed and direction of the vehicle. New Jersey believes all drivers should focus on the road and nothing else.
Child passenger safety is also given a high priority with detailed restraint requirements depending on the age and physical size of the children. Seat belts for drivers and older passengers, and other safety-related laws are strictly enforced. The accident rate is quite high in the congested city areas and public policy requires consistent standards of driver behavior. In 2011, 536 people, i.e. 85.5% of all fatal accidents, occurred in urban areas. Not only is this a personal tragedy, there’s a significant economic cost to the state when people are injured or killed and cannot go to work. Funding law enforcement is good public policy.
Do You Know that…
1. The state is fourth smallest in terms of area, but has the densest population with the second-highest number of millionaires per capita.
2. The state is home to the Pine Barrens, an area featured as having supernatural qualities in some horror literature.
3. Some 92% of all driving in the state is urban.
4. The most popular vehicle for people to buy is the Honda Accord.
5. The state has a no-fault insurance program requiring significant elements of choice for the buyer.
6. Failure to buy car insurance or making the best choices on the right to sue can result in you losing your right to claim for personal injuries, no matter how seriously you are injured.
7. You cannot get an unrestricted driver’s license until you are eighteen-years-old.
8. There’s a lawyers referral service in all the major areas of the state to find an attorney with the right expertise to advise.
9. Anyone under the age of 21 will be convicted with a BAC of 0.01% or higher.
10. An ignition interlock device will be fitted if your BAC is above 0.10 or you committed a second offense.