Joan McDonald, the state transportation commissioner, was quick to put pedal to metal in ordering her department's engineers to make improvements to Hempstead Turnpike, Long Island's deadliest road for pedestrians.

Requiring a report in no more than three months is a great start by McDonald, who leads an agency not known for quick responsiveness. But she must make sure her call for short- and long-term solutions survives the bureaucracy that must implement these changes.

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But why did it take a newspaper investigation for transportation officials in Albany to acknowledge and respond to such a deadly problem in a very populous county?

A Newsday study published Sunday found that 32 people were killed and at least 427 injured in pedestrian accidents on a 16-mile stretch of the turnpike in the six years ending in 2010. Two days after the story, another casualty was added to the list when a sport utility vehicle fatally struck a 72-year-old man crossing the road in Elmont.

The road is considered the deadliest for pedestrians in the metropolitan area by a transportation advocacy group. Often pedestrians don't use crosswalks, especially when it's a long walk to a spot with a traffic light. Cars and trucks ignore the speed limit.

Making Hempstead Turnpike, one of the Island's major east-west arteries, safer doesn't have a simple solution. It involves changing design, changing human behavior and changing law enforcement techniques. But clearly McDonald must ensure comprehensive change.