Editorial: A deadly stretch of Route 495

Long Island Expressway looking west near Exit 36 Long Island Expressway looking west near Exit 36 (Oct. 5, 2011). Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

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A federal study released this week clarifies something local drivers already knew: The Long Island Expressway, particularly between Exits 35 and 41 in Nassau County, is dangerous. Over the past decade, 24 law enforcement officers were injured in that stretch and one, Michael Califano, was killed during a traffic stop by a driver who allegedly fell asleep.

Part of the problem is heavy traffic, more than 200,000 vehicles a day in places. That won't diminish. But the study, done after Califano's death at the behest of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), cites improvements that could help: 14 emergency pull-off areas, more streetlights, blue strobe lights on police and emergency vehicles, reflective material on officers' clothing, reflectors on guardrails, and speed limits enforced by cameras.

Why speed-limit cameras? Fast and aggressive driving is a frequent problem on this segment of the LIE, with the average vehicle speed above the limit, and well above it in the HOV lanes. When you consider that traffic in the area often crawls, the fact that the average motorist is going around 60 mph suggests there is some seriously fast driving going on when traffic is light.

The state can apply for a $1.7-billion pot of federal money to improve this too-long-ignored spot, and should do so promptly, but motorists also need to do their part by curbing high speeds and aggressive driving. hN

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