Getting Lost in New Jersey
Jude Wanniski
September 2, 1997


Memo To: James E. McGreevey
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: My vote for Governor

Did you read the New Jersey section of the Sunday New York Times this week? It contains a story that could be the key to you winning the governorship in November, unseating Christine Todd Whitman, who I would enjoy seeing bounced. She has been a most disappointing governor, although she seems to be popular with that segment of the national political press corps that does not live in the state. The Sunday Times article, "Better Follow Your Heart. Road Signs Won't Help," by Joe Sharkey, gets right to the point. New Jersey's roads and highways are the worst marked in the United States, perhaps the worst in the world. I've lived in the state since 1972, having previously lived in Pennsylvania, New York, California, Alaska, Nevada and Maryland. I've driven cross country 13 times and have spent considerable time driving in every state of the union. Without any question, Sharkey is right. New Jersey, which has more miles of highway per capita and more automobiles per square mile than any other state, has a pathetic system of highway markings. There is no doubt in my mind that New Jersey residents have the highest auto insurance rates in the nation because of accidents incurred by locals and out-of-staters who are driving in circles.

In 25 years, I continue to average 50 miles a year of needless driving which is the result of the failure to post signs where appropriate. Because I know how pathetic the highway markings are, I am more alert than most, especially motorists visiting the Garden State. With a few simple calculations, based on the number of miles driven on New Jersey roads and highways, my estimate is that at least 70 million miles are driven intrastate by motorists who have been incorrectly guided or not guided at all. If 90% of these miles were not driven, the number of accidents that drive New Jersey's insurance rates skyhigh would drop and so would our rates. This is because these 70 million miles are being driven by the most confused and frustrated motorists who account for a disproportionate share of the accidents every year. There is no other state where we can so frequently observe cars backing up on highway exits, trying to find their way back to where they want to go. The anger and confusion they radiate even cause accidents they are not involved in.

What I mean to say, Mr. gubernatorial candidate, is that if you would make a big deal out of a promise to make New Jersey's roads and highways the best-marked in these United States, you would give us reason to vote for best-marked m these United States, you would give us reason to vote for you. We have no reason to vote for Christie, who I'm sure has never noticed the highway markings, inasmuch as she has been driven by a chauffeur since she was a tot. I might have voted for her if she delivered on her campaign promise to cut state income-tax rates by 30%, but she only cut the rates by that amount for people in the lowest income tax brackets, who pay almost no tax anyway.

As far as I can tell, Christie's highest priority as a state and national political leader is to defend a woman's right to abortion, including when the baby has been partially born. That's reason enough for me to vote for the Conservative candidate, or to abstain, but if I could get the assurance from you that you would spend a few thousand dollars slapping up some signs, I definitely would vote the Democratic line for governor.