NEW BRUNSWICK – The main role for a prosecutor is to bring justice to people who have been wronged. But for Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey that’s not the only focus.
Carey has taken an active role in working with local police departments and state leaders to find ways to reduce the number of road fatalities, which are among the highest in the state.
Since 2016, there have been approximately 40 accidents and nearly 50 fatalities per year in Middlesex County. In 2019, according to New Jersey State Police records there have been four fatalities, which happened in Cranbury, North Brunswick, New Brunswick and on State Highway 171 at Suydam Street.
Carey believes that many of these accidents may be avoidable through better signage, road development and engaging communities about driver safety whether that is from education or increased enforcement.
“We are trying to target older drivers and distracted driving, which is an increasing problem,” Carey said in an interview late last year discussing his efforts to reduce fatalities related to motor vehicle accidents. “We are working with the local schools to try to educate people about safety. We are also targeting the senior communities.”
For his part he has worked with local police departments to identify dangerous intersections or roadways to help those agencies get grants from either the county or the state to make improvements.
“The towns are very much a partner,” Carey said. “They are looking for funding and ideas. And they are the ones on the front lines. We are just trying to put them in touch with the right grants … DWI checkpoints, seatbelt awareness.”
As prosecutor, Carey has seen his share of fatal accidents that devastate families. He recalled a time when he saw a minivan get hit in Sayreville. Or when, more recently, a high school vice principle was killed while walking from the train station on his way to visit family.
On Oct. 6, Tyrone Harrison, 49, of Somerset and a vice principal at New Brunswick High School was killed allegedly by people drag racing when he was on Stelton Road near Ethel Road in Piscataway. While the prosecutor’s office routinely sends out media alerts, it was one of the few times Carey commented on crime.
“This tragic death was entirely preventable and unnecessary,” Carey said in the October media alert. “Drag racing on public roads is dangerous and irresponsible. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Harrison’s family and the school community.”
On Feb. 22, Carey announced that Freddy Garcia, one of two people charged in connection to Harrison’s death, was indicted for aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in a death, causing a death while driving with a suspended license, hindering and false reports.
“Illegal street racing is a serious problem,” he said, adding that his department is working with local police to figure out a way to bring it to an end.
“We have a high amount of pedestrian fatalities and it is something that we are looking at as well,” he said. “In some cases it’s because people don’t use the proper walking areas.”
But ultimately, he said drivers and walkers need to pay more attention to their surroundings and focus less on distractions like their cell phone. As Middlesex County’s population grows it also means that there are more pedestrians and drivers.
“Distracted driving is incredibly frustrating,” he said. “People always think that they are good at doing it. Walker safety, driver safety are important. We are just trying to help people be more safe.”