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Roundtable Releases South Fork Highway Safety Recommendations

Officials aim to prevent fatal accidents on local roads.

Fatal accident scene on County Road 39 July 25. PHOTO CREDIT: Taylor K. Vecsey
Fatal accident scene on County Road 39 July 25. PHOTO CREDIT: Taylor K. Vecsey
A roundtable of lawmakers, safety experts and emergency responders released its findings Friday on how safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians can be improved across the region.

The South Fork Highway Safety Roundtable, which was first convened in October 2012 by state Assemblyman Fred Thiele, of Sag Harbor, and state Sen. Kenneth LaValle, of Port Jefferson, has compiled a report outlining initiatives to make local roads safer.

The roundtable, consisting of roadway engineers and safety officers, police, emergency responders, educators and elected officials, was assembled in response to an increase in accidents on the South Fork in the summer of 2012, including a fatal accident on County Road 39 in Southampton that crippled the region as the highway remained closed for six hours.

"The South Fork has seen its share of accidents this summer as well," Thiele's office stated. "A fatal head-on collision on July 25th brought the East End to a standstill when County Road 39 was closed for nine hours following an accident involving an SUV and Hampton Jitney bus."
 
The roundtable has three workgroups, tackling engineering, education and enforcement.

The report noted that since 2012 progress has been made in repairing Montauk Highway, making stiffer penalties for texting and driving, and improving public transportation service. But the roundtable is calling for more to be done, including putting up red light cameras, lowering speed limits, conducting multi-jurisdictional enforcement and improving communication and notifications.

Lowering speed limits on some roads will require state legislation before local municipalities are permitted to make those decisions. To reduce collisions with deer, the roundtable is recommending more signs in deer concentrated areas. Flashing lights are recommended at school zones, and the area of school zones could grow.

Driving safety education programming is also planned, including summer peak season education campaigns and school programs to combat distracted driving.

"While we have come a long way in just the past year, the closure of County Road 39 for nearly an entire business day highlights the need for this roundtable to reconvene again this fall," Thiele said in a statement. "We learn from every unfortunate incident and can only improve moving forward. I look forward to working with this dedicated and knowledgeable group of individuals again to continue on our mission to make our roads safer."

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