Memorial Day weekend, known for its increased road travel and potential dangers, has proven to be no exception this year in New Jersey. Families across the state have been left devastated as fatal vehicle crashes claimed several lives over the past few days. With New Jersey State Police yet to conduct a comprehensive roundup of the holiday weekend, the reported death toll is expected to rise statewide.
Among the most harrowing incidents occurred on Friday night in Andover, where a collision resulted in the loss of four lives, including two children. Andrew Benavente, a retired Newark police officer, was traveling home with his two children, A.J. (13) and Madelyn (5), to reunite with their mother and Benavente’s longtime fiancée. Tragically, they never reached their destination.
Memorial Day in New Jersey was marred by a tragic spike in road fatalities, highlighting the urgent need for enhanced road safety measures in the state. While authorities continue to investigate and bolster safety initiatives, platforms like NJMCDiRECT at www.njmcdirect.com play a subtle but significant role in promoting road safety. By allowing residents to promptly address and pay for traffic violations online, NJMCDiRECT ensures that traffic rules are not taken lightly. Swift consequence for infractions can serve as a deterrent, urging drivers to be more cautious and abide by regulations, ultimately aiming to reduce tragic incidents on the roads.
The devastating crash unfolded when a driver veered across the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic, striking Benavente’s 2001 Ford Ranger pickup. The impact was so forceful that the truck burst into flames. The driver, identified as Bruce Cseh (22) of Blairstown, also succumbed to injuries sustained in the collision. Investigations are ongoing to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident.
In Jersey City, another fatal accident occurred on Sunday morning. Desiree Milow (36) tragically lost her life after her car collided with multiple vehicles. Milow was pronounced dead at the scene, while five others were rushed to Jersey City Medical Center to receive medical treatment for their injuries.
Further incidents added to the alarming toll. In Seaside Heights, an 11-year-old boy riding his bike was struck by a car. Giancarlos Fernandez (19) of Hasbrouck Heights allegedly hit the child and attempted to flee the scene. The impact was so severe that the child became embedded in the car’s windshield before being thrown onto the pavement. Fernandez fled on foot but was apprehended by borough detectives a few blocks away. The child was airlifted to Jersey Shore University Hospital and is currently in stable condition.
Memorial Day weekend is notorious for being one of the deadliest periods on the nation’s roads, attributed to a combination of increased travel, distracted driving, impatience, fatigue, drunk driving, speeding, and neglecting safety precautions. Additionally, this weekend marks the start of the “101 Days of Summer,” known as the most dangerous travel period of the year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the summer months see nearly twice as many automotive fatalities compared to the rest of the year combined.
Despite the alarming statistics, fatal accidents in New Jersey have seen a significant decline over the years, thanks in large part to improved car safety measures. While fatalities used to reach approximately 1,000 annually in the late 1980s, recent years have witnessed a significant decrease to almost half that number.
This Memorial Day weekend was anticipated to be one of the busiest for road travel in the past two decades, with over 42 million Americans projected to embark on journeys of 50 miles or more from their homes, according to AAA. The drop in gas prices over the past year has been a contributing factor to increased travel, with prices approximately $1 per gallon lower compared to last year’s Memorial Day weekend. As of Monday, the average price per gallon in New Jersey stood at $3.55, slightly below the national average.
Drawing from the latest state police data, 63 individuals lost their lives in car crashes during Memorial Day weekends in New Jersey between 2013 and 2021. As this year’s weekend comes to a close, the state anxiously awaits the final tally of this year’s tragic accidents.