The opening of a new turning lane at the intersection of state routes 347 and 112 in Terryville has led to a string of collisions involving drivers apparently befuddled by the new traffic patterns, officials said.
Drivers going west on Route 347 who want to turn south onto Route 112 now must make a left turn earlier onto Canal Road. Left turns from Route 347 directly onto Route 112 now are illegal. The change is part of the New York State Department of Transportation's $25.6 million project to reconstruct the intersection.
After the change was made on May 27, Terryville Fire Department volunteers responded to nine accidents in six days -- an "unusually high" number of collisions, first assistant chief Brendan Pilkington said.
He said none of the accidents was serious or resulted in serious injuries.
Suffolk police and Terryville fire officials posted statements on the department's Facebook pages last week advising drivers of the new turn lane.
Officials said they believe drivers eventually will get used to the new turn. But they say the change may have confused many drivers.
"It's a horror show. It really is," said Ed Garboski, president of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Civic Association.
State DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters said two portable electronic message signs were placed near the intersection to advise drivers of the new turn lanes. Additional signs were placed on wires over the road, she said.
"It's a very obvious construction zone," Peters said.
Pilkington said there appears to be "plenty of signage" informing drivers of the new turn lanes. He said he could not explain the higher rate of collisions.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Pilkington said. "What their mindset is when they make that left-hand turn, I couldn't tell you."
Sixth Precinct Insp. William Murphy said police responded to four accidents at the intersection after the change was made, including two in which drivers had made illegal left turns onto Route 112. Five more collisions involved vehicles caught in detoured traffic or gridlock related to construction, he said.
He said no tickets were issued for illegal left turns. "Due to the confusion there, we're trying to be fair," Murphy said.
He said accidents will subside as drivers get used to the new system.
"When construction is finished there, it's going to be much clearer," Murphy said.