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Report: 4 LI roads among most dangerous for pedestrians

As traffic moves along Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont,

As traffic moves along Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont, a pedestrian signal counts down at the intersection with Elmont Road. (Sept. 13, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Long Island is home to half of the metropolitan area's 10 most dangerous roads for pedestrians, including Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County, which remains the region's most treacherous thoroughfare, a new report shows.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign's latest analysis of pedestrian fatalities in downstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut ranks four Long Island arterials -- Hempstead Turnpike and Sunrise Highway in Nassau, and Route 25/Jericho Turnpike and Route 110 in Suffolk -- in the top five most dangerous roads for people on foot.

The transportation policy watchdog's annual assessment, released Monday, examined federal data from 2009 through 2011 to locate pedestrian-vehicle collisions. It does not weight the roads by traffic volume.

Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau -- for the fifth time since 2008 -- topped the list. In 2009, six fatalities were recorded on the 16-mile stretch, five in 2010 and three in 2011. Manhattan's Broadway, ranked second, accounted for 12 fatalities in that period.

Eight pedestrians died on Jericho Turnpike in Suffolk in 2011, the highest number of fatalities on any roadway in the region for any of the three years, according to the study.

Wide, busy roads like those throughout Long Island -- designed to move vehicles as fast as possible, often through densely populated residential and commercial areas -- are the most deadly for pedestrians.

"Almost 60 percent of pedestrian deaths in the region occur on multilane thoroughfares, though they make up just 15 percent of the roads," said Ryan Lynch, the campaign's Long Island-born associate director.

Overall, 110 pedestrians died from 2009 through 2011 in Suffolk, and 84 in Nassau in the same period. The number of pedestrian deaths in Suffolk increased steadily in the study period while those in Nassau dropped, according to the report.

Regionwide, more than 1,200 pedestrians died in collisions with vehicles in the study period, according to the report.

Fatalities have steadily decreased in downstate New York. Pedestrian deaths increased slightly in New Jersey from 2010 to 2011, according to the report.

"Instead of blasting cars through communities as we've been doing in past years," Lynch said. "We need to develop solutions that work locally for everyone in these communities, whether they drive, walk, bike or take transit."

Safety improvements such as measures the New York State Department of Transportation is instituting on Hempstead Turnpike have been shown to reduce injuries and fatalities, Lynch said.

In Smithtown, where six pedestrians died between 2004 and 2011 on a 1-mile strip of Route 25 known as Main Street, the transportation department last year spent $500,000 on a range of safety measures. They include reducing four lanes to three, re-striping the road to provide a turning lane, increasing pedestrian crossing time, adding crossing countdown timers, and restricting right turns on red.

"We've had no deaths since, thank heavens," said Mark Mancini, president of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce, which lobbied for the changes. "People would drive down Main Street at 55 mph like it was a four-lane highway before."

A state speed study found average speed had been reduced to 28 mph after the changes.

State transportation department spokesman Beau Duffy said the agency is, for the first time, looking at designing safety programs for entire road "corridors" as well as specific intersections. The first of those efforts is under way on Hempstead Turnpike. A study of changes that could be made to Sunrise Highway, primarily in Nassau, is under way and should be completed this summer.

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