A group of Levittown teenagers is trying to memorialize two friends killed in traffic on Hempstead Turnpike and help keep other teens safe while crossing the dangerous highway.
"You really have to look out for yourself and your friends when you're crossing these big streets," said Kelsey Smith, 15. "You can't depend on the drivers. You have to be responsible. Look. Wait. Double check."
The five teenagers, all students at Division Avenue High School, have volunteered to help with County Executive Edward Mangano's Walk Safe Nassau campaign.
The county, which is blanketing communities along the turnpike with fliers and posters to remind walkers of the dangers of crossing the highway without obeying pedestrian signals, has asked the teens to produce a video and a public service announcement on the issue.
"The ability to have kids talking to kids allows us to effectively address certain issues specific to them, such as the tendency to take risks," said Chris Mistron, Nassau's coordinator of traffic safety. Mistron says he hopes to show the teens' video in every middle and high school in Nassau.
Smith, who will be a high school junior in September, was in a crowd of friends who had just crossed the turnpike about 9 p.m. on April 4 when their companion, Anthony D'Alessandro, 16, was struck and killed.
She said they had been at the public library across the street and were already at the 7-Eleven when D'Alessandro was hit "coming over."
D'Alessandro is one of 36 pedestrians killed on the 16-mile-long Hempstead Turnpike since 2005, making it the deadliest road in the metropolitan area, according to the Tri-state Transportation Campaign, a longtime advocacy group for less travel by car.
On June 4, 2011, Peter Thearle, 19, was hit and killed on the turnpike just a few blocks east of where D'Alessandro was struck.
In the week a year after Thearle's death, the five teenagers took on the task of cleaning up his and D'Alessandro's memorial sites on the turnpike. The other teens in the group are Megan McCarthy, 17, a senior; Jocelyn Gonzalez, 15, a sophomore; and Codin Simone and Stephen Fusco, both 16 and sophomores.
"We don't want to see this happen to others," said Fusco, who was a close friend of D'Alessandro's and knew Thearle.
Gonzalez, who said she had known D'Alessandro since the sixth grade, said she sometimes comes from her nearby home and sits on a crate or stands around at the site near the sidewalk just west of Division Avenue to "think about him."
Smith and her mother, Genna, have begun delivering posters with safety reminders to some storefronts along the turnpike, and plan to ask neighborhood schools to display them.
Mangano urged others to join the Walk Safe campaign.
"With the right safety education, we can keep our pedestrians safe. Meet me at the crosswalk," he said.