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Levy plan to tackle wrong-way drivers

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy (Dec. 1, 2010)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy (Dec. 1, 2010) Photo Credit: John Dunn

Extra patrols at highway ramps, DWI checkpoints and a radio public service campaign are among the latest efforts by Suffolk County to curb wrong-way driving, a problem many Long Island officials see as a growing health hazard.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy will announce the plan at a news conference today.

"Safety on our streets is paramount, during the holidays and all-year round," Levy said. "We are reminding members of the public that law enforcement will be out in force to prevent anyone else from being involved in another horrific 'wrong-way' or DWI-related crash."

Nassau police and Suffolk deputy sheriffs also said they would step up patrols to nab disoriented or intoxicated drivers.

Levy's noon news conference comes as yet another wrong-way driver who police said was drunk was caught Sunday at 4:05 a.m. on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow.

He will appear with Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer and representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving amid a fleet of cruisers and a police helicopter at the Suffolk County Police Special Patrol Bureau in Smithtown.

Levy's plan against wrong-way driving will include DWI checkpoints at what officials called "highly trafficked intersections," as well as highway ramps and shopping centers across Suffolk County.

It also includes a public service announcement called "Wrong Way Holiday" that will air on major Long Island radio stations.

The latest wrong-way driving incident was the third in five days, the fourth in two weeks and the sixth in a month that police say a drunken driver drove the wrong way on a major Long Island road.

A Highway Patrol Bureau officer spotted Bernadette Behensky, 20, of Hansen Lane, Huntington Station, driving her 2005 Volvo westbound in the eastbound lanes, police said. But there was no crash and no one was injured or killed.

Police said the woman was stopped moments after she started down the road in the wrong direction. Police said the officer was able to stop the car within "approximately 100 feet" after the driver had "exited an establishment." Police declined to identify that location.

The road is divided by a low center concrete median that is continuous, except for intersections, from Merrick Avenue near the Meadowbrook Parkway to Route 106-Newbridge Road, near the Wantagh Parkway.

During a traffic stop, the officer found Behensky was operating the car "under the influence of an alcoholic beverage," state police said.

She was arrested and charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated, DWI, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and numerous vehicle and traffic law violations, police said. She was arraigned Sunday in First District Court in Hempstead.

Behensky pleaded not guilty and was released on $2,500 bond or $1,500 cash bail, the Nassau County district attorney's office said. She is due to return to court Friday. Officials said her attorney information was not immediately available.

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