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New Billboards for County Road 39 Pitched

Southampton Town Board considers measures to combat speeding, distracted driving.

A new incarnation of controversial and oft-derided anti-speeding billboards that once stood along County Road 39 in Southampton may be in store as part of an effort to reduce accidents on the highly traveled roadway.

In light of a that closed the highway for nearly six hours, as well as other serious accidents across town this year, the Town Board held a discussion Friday on how to address speeding and other traffic hazards, such as distracted drivers. The prospect of new billboards was raised, as the Town Board, Police Chief William Wilson and Town Director of Transportation and Traffic Safety Tom Neely weighed the best traffic-calming and accident-reducing measures.

The old billboards — which featured a life-size police car and a cop pointing a radar gun — alerted motorists that the speed limit is 35 miles per hour and "strictly enforced."

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst suggested at Friday's meeting that the installation of new large signs be considered to raise public awareness.

The supervisor said the billboards could go up on a seasonal basis and send the message that using cellphones and texting while driving kills.

The old billboards were erected in May 2008 by Suffolk County after a widening project that added a second eastbound lane to the highway was completed. The signs were vandalized a few times; however, after someone whitewashed the police car on Thanksgiving morning and spraypainted "Please'" and "Thank You" on the billboards instead, many residents saw it as an improvement.

After a number of complaints from constituents and Southampton leaders, Suffolk County removed the signs in February 2009.

Wilson said that though traffic in Southampton has increased by 50 percent in the past 25 years, the roads have only improved 1 percent in that time to accommodate them — namely, the widening of County Road 39.

“Our road systems were never designed to handle the amount of volume we have on the roadways,” he said, noting that more cars means an increased chance of collisions.

Neely told the Town Board that Southampton has about 2,000 motor vehicle accidents annually, with 500 injuries and eight fatalities.

“I think we are generally on the same level," Neely said of 2012 so far. "Of course, July and August are two of the highest accident months”

Neely said that 18 percent of accidents in town are attributed to a driver failing to yield the right of way, 9 percent are due to speeding, and 3.4 percent involve alcohol or drugs.

The Town Board decided to draft a resolution to be voted on at its Tuesday public meeting that directs Neely to ask Suffolk County for an accident analysis of County Road 39.

Jerry Can August 14, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Interesting that based on these limited statistics, that the majority of the accidents are not DWI based. That I believe is due to the fact that most drivers are very aware of the costly consequences of a DWI not just in potential risk for accidents but from law enforcement. From a law enforcement perspective there seems to be a lot of money in DWI's from fines and so forth as well as subsidies from various government sources so there is a greater incentive to pursue them. Can the same be true for other types of infractions? Speeding probably eyes the others probably less so. It would be interesting to get the numbers from the police and the courts for the other types of violations they are issuing tickets to understand better what is going on. Putting up large dumb signs are meaning less. More enforcement is what is needed coupled to less leniency at the courts. A stop sign violation is not a parking ticket. There are serious consequences from failing to stop if that is what the "failing to yield" number means. LIkewise, a greater police presence is required. People have to see the police out there. Just like on the highways and you slow down and see a cop, likewise in these back roads. Also there are certain times and places where a traffic cop is needed to direct and control traffic and not just to doll out parking violations. This is especially true in the Villages.
Ralebird August 14, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Oh, so it's okay to take away the use of others' properties, but not yours? That's why the word "hypocrite" was coined.
David D'Agostino August 14, 2012 at 07:39 PM
GJ, you are clearly only interested in being a pain in the _____. Where did I mention taking away the use of others' properties? Allow me to be specific so you can rest your weary mind: I am talking about future development - future commercial development e.g. the proposed King Kullen Mega-Mall, which is a change of zone issue - my residential property already exists and was built according to zoning. Spot zoning developments have no "as of right" so there are no property rights to be taken away, instead, the board has the power of discretion which means they can limit development type and size in the interest of the town and in the interest of road safety.
leslie October 05, 2012 at 07:16 PM
SPEED LIMIT CONTROLLED BY SNIPER!!!!!! that would definetly stop some citi idiots
EmJeyZee October 16, 2012 at 02:20 AM
I say make the road effectively more narrow by converting one of the lanes to a locals and commercial only lane during peak rush...everyone else..get in line. The Hamptons are a scarce resource and should be treated as such. There is no reason to open the gates to accommodate the consumption of it. People will come to Hamptons (I promise). Traffic congestion is a problem for every major beach destination on the East coast. The problem to solve is to provide traffic relief to the locals and commercial traffic. Building more lanes never solves traffic problems...it just shifts them a few miles down the road...especially on an island!

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