If it seems to you that more people are driving like maniacs on New Jersey highways and byways these days, it turns out you’re right.

The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds motor vehicle fatalities in the Garden State are spiking.

A statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2021 shows that an estimated 496 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in New Jersey

This represents an increase of 19.2% as compared to 416 fatalities that were projected in the first nine months of 2020, according to NHTSA crash stats.

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Tracy Noble, the manager of public and government affairs for AAA MidAtlantic, said the uptick in fatalities is hardly surprising.

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saravuth-photohut
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“It’s simply because of the amount of reckless behavior that we have seen on our New Jersey roadways,” she said.

“We’ve seen traffic volume bounce back to pre-pandemic levels and now we’ve seen fatal crashes surpassing pre-pandemic levels, which is alarming and concerning.”

Why is this happening?

She said the reason this is happening is because of “distracted driving, driving while impaired — whether it be an illegal substance a legal substance or alcohol — and speeding.”

“As safe as today’s cars and trucks are they are not designed to withstand crash forces when people are traveling upwards of 80, 90, 100 miles per hour," she said.

Photo illustration (Industrial Photograph)
Photo illustration (Industrial Photograph)
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She noted in order to understand why reckless driving has significantly increased since the start of the pandemic, “there’s going to have to be a deeper dive into the factors and behaviors we have seen taking place.”

What's the fix?

Noble said to begin to solve the problem we need to embrace a multi-faceted approach.

“That means education for all drivers, getting the enforcement campaigns out there and working and public safety campaigns,” she said.

“Just to increase motorists' awareness, and hopefully get them to pay attention that their safety really is in their own hands.”

According to NHTSA, the statistical projection of traffic fatalities nationwide for the first nine months of 2021 shows that an estimated 31,720 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This represents an increase of about 12% as compared to 28,325 fatalities that were projected in the first nine months of 2020.

NJ county fairs make a comeback: Check out the schedule for 2022

UPDATED 4/10: A current list of county fairs happening across the Garden State for 2022. From rides, food, animals, and hot air balloons, each county fair has something unique to offer.

(Fairs are listed in geographical order from South NJ to North NJ)

These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions: