A studio photo of Keith Cerrato a Hofstra student who...

A studio photo of Keith Cerrato a Hofstra student who was fatally hit on Hempstead Turnpike in Hempstead. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Keith Cerrato was a popular Hofstra University finance major who was pointed toward getting his bachelor's degree in the spring of 2007.

On the night of Dec. 8, 2006, the 24-year-old from Garden City and several friends had just left a bar on Fulton Avenue -- the name given Hempstead Turnpike in Hempstead Village -- and were heading to a party in a campus dorm. He tried to cross the road at 10:25 p.m.

Exactly what happened in the next moments, before a sport-utility vehicle struck Cerrato, remains unclear. Nassau County police concluded that Cerrato was crossing Fulton from south to north near Meadowbrook Road and that pedestrian error was a contributing factor to the crash.

The vehicle's driver was cited for faulty brakes.

Cerrato's parents, Mary Louis and John Cerrato of Garden City, said the road sorely needs pedestrian safety improvements.

While the speed limit is 40 mph in that area, John Cerrato, 64, said every time he's been on the road there, traffic appears to be moving faster.

"They're doing at least 50 miles per hour. It's a three-lane road [in each direction] with very few lights," the father said. "If you want to do something to fix that road, put in speed bumps, put in stop signs, put in more lights, slow traffic down."

Shannon Desmond, 27, one of Keith Cerrato's friends, was steps away from him. They had left the bar, then called the Dizzy Lizard. She recalls laughing and turning to look at Cerrato, who she said was behind her and had started across the road.

"He was on the phone, and his head was down, and he looked up at me," said Desmond, who added that she had reached the other side. "It was in that instant that he got hit."

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