Deaths on Dangerous Jericho Turnpike in Suffolk County Prompt Changes in Road Configuration and Speed Limit
The state Department of Transportation yesterday unveiled changes to a stretch of Jericho Turnpike, from Old Willets Path to Meadow Road, in Smithtown where three teenagers were killed last year in a car accident on their lunch break from school. A primary purpose of the changes is to slow drivers down by reconfiguring the roadway and by reducing the speed limit. Although the posted speed limit is 55 MPH, New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) studies show 50 percent of drivers in the westbound lane drive 60 mph or faster. The speed on the westbound lane will be reduced from 55 MPH to 45 MPH, and on the eastbound lanes from 55 MPH to 50 MPH. Police will also increase speed enforcement. The changes to the configuration of the 1.3-mile roadway that cuts through Caleb Smith State Park are: - The two westbound lanes will merge into one lane. Eastbound will remain two lanes. - A median will be constructed on the eliminated westbound lane. That will increase the distance between oncoming traffic from 2 feet to 12 feet. - Rumble strips and stripes will be installed on the new median. When driven over, the stripes will be audible to drivers so they will be alerted if they drift toward oncoming traffic. - So that drivers do not have to stop in the left lane to turn left a center-turn divider will be added closer to Meadow Road. On their lunch break on Halloween, two Smithtown High School students were killed when the car they were riding in crossed the median and struck an oncoming minivan. A passenger in the minivan, John Aruanno, 13, of Smithtown, also died. The driver of the car was charged in their deaths after prosecutors said he was speeding. John Aruanno's parents are suing the Smithtown school district contending that school officials are liable because students were bound to race back to school with being given just one period for lunch. A Coram woman was also killed on the same part of Jericho Turnpike in May of this year. Suffolk County has the state's four most dangerous roads. Based on federal data for traffic fatalities from 1998 through 2002, according to a 2004 study reported by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit group in Manhattan. The study showed that Jericho Turnpike had the greatest number, 78 deaths, followed by Sunrise Highway with 71. The two Suffolk roads were also ranked first and second in fatalities at intersections. The figures include pedestrians, who accounted for about a third of the deaths. The Jericho Turnpike fatalities were three or more times those for Queens Boulevard and Northern Boulevard in Queens, Broadway in Manhattan and Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island. Amongst roads in the New York Metropolitan area, the Long Island Expressway in Suffolk was third on the study's list, with 38 deaths, followed by Route 25A in Suffolk, with 35. Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County, with 34 fatalities, was fifth, Interstate 95 in the Bronx was seventh, Sunrise Highway in Nassau was eighth with 30, and Queens Boulevard was ninth. In its Suffolk County portion, Jericho Turnpike is also known as Route 25, as Main Street in Smithtown and as Middle Country Road in the eastern section of the county, as Main Street in Riverhead and as Main Road on the North Fork. Yesterday also brought death and serious injuries to an intersection in Suffolk County that has been the scene of so many accidents that neighbors had requested that a traffic light be installed. The intersection of Mooney Pond Road and Adirondack Drive in Selden, in the Town of Brookhaven, has been the site of 10 reported crashes between 2004 and 2007. The intersection is controlled by stop signs. A review by New York State analyzing trafffic volume and speed, collisions, and other factors concluded that the intersection did not meet the state's criteria for a traffic light. Yesterday's accident apparently occurred when a driver, Marco Diaz, 18, did not see the stop sign. As a result, the convertible he was driving crashed into an SUV. Diaz's passenger, Alora Williams, 14, was killed, and he and his passengers, Julian Coppola, 14, and Danielle Alora, 15, were injured. The SUV driver, Joseph Wakeford, 25, was also injured. Perhaps Mr. Diaz would not have missed seeing a traffic light had one been there instead of the stop sign. In 2007, it was reported that data compiled by the state Department of Transportation showed that the Southern State Parkway is the most dangerous state road on Long Island and Hempstead Turnpike has the highest concentration of crash-prone locations. The Southern State had five of Long Island's 10 worst-rated spots when compared with similar state roads throughout New York. Hempstead Turnpike had 12 segments with above-average accident rates west of the Meadowbrook Parkway. As drivers on Long Island, do these rankings seem accurate? Are there other locations that seem exceedingly dangerous? We would enjoy hearing your comments on this blog. The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving motor vehicle accidents. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.