N.J. should address lack of statewide mandate for standardized house numbers, officials say

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 Some officials are calling for New Jersey to mandate the display of standard address numbers statewide.  (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Some officials are calling for New Jersey to mandate the display of standard address numbers statewide. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Many towns and counties in New Jersey have local laws requiring address numbers to be displayed at homes and commercial buildings, but there’s no statewide mandate.

And that can cause problems ranging from minor to serious.

Even equipped with GPS, drivers find that locating an unfamiliar building can be difficult. Without the numbers confirming the destination, many motorists are uncertain that they have arrived at the right place.

That’s more than an inconvenience, said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty .

“It’s not necessarily about ordering a pizza and the delivery guy can’t find out where it’s at,” he said. “If it’s a real emergency — whether it’s a fire truck or a police car or an ambulance — they know what address they’re going to by following other numbers.

“You could be putting someone’s life at risk, and for what reason? Because you were too lazy to put your numbers on?”

Not having numbers posted can also jam up traffic, said Cathleen Lewis with AAA Northeast.

“When you’re trying to find someplace, and it’s hard to find, that can mean that those motorists are driving too slowly. That can create a risk of crash because other drivers aren’t going to know that,” Lewis said. “They could make sudden turns — again, that could increase your risk for crash.”

Even those doing building inspections sometimes have trouble finding the right house, said Pat Naticchione, president of the New Jersey Building Officials Association.

“It’s a lot better than it used to be. I know some 30-odd years ago doing this, it used to be real hard when you were driving down the street, and there would only be one house,” he said. “Now, you might have that occasional one or two houses that the only ones that don’t have the addresses. Most of the municipalities I’ve worked in now, most of the addresses are up.”

Commercial buildings often lose numbers when a business moves out and strips the numbers from the building along with its name, Naticchione said.

Technology has been a help, according to Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little.

“Luckily, we have new advances with GPS where we can actually locate houses with Quick Streets or other programs that are in our computer-aided dispatch system, records management system, in the police cars,” Little said. “We can actually go right to the house, but not everybody has that.”

A Toms River law requires address numbers to be displayed, and Little would like to see it mandated statewide.

Requiring the address numbers to be the same size and type in all communities — and making them reflective — would make it easier for everyone, he said.

For now, Little said he’s not aware of anyone pushing to make this mandatory statewide.

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