Long Island lawmakers on Friday called for doubled fines, stepped up enforcement and more signage on parts of the Southern State Parkway to combat the scourge of traffic fatalities.
"Too many people … are dying on this roadway and we cannot stay silent," Assemb. Michelle Solages (D-Elmont) said at a news conference Friday at the former New York State trooper barracks on the parkway in North Valley Stream amid photos of roadside memorials to the victims of vehicle crashes. Solages said the parkway was designed for an era when cars were heavier and slower than they are today. "We must adapt to new times and build the infrastructure and make the roadway safer."
Solages and state Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) introduced a bill last month to create "highway safety corridors" on the parkway, where signs would indicate double fines. The corridors would be established based in part on statistical analysis of locations with high incidence of fatal crashes due to driver behavior, according to the proposed legislation. Police would also need to commit to increased law enforcement in the corridors, according to the proposal.
The lawmakers said they want to change driver behaviors, such as speeding, texting while driving, entering a one-way lane in the wrong direction and trucks that aren’t allowed on the parkway hitting overpasses.
"Most of what we see out here on the parkway is human behavior, it's caused by human behavior," Brooks said at the news conference. "We can't fix all of this roadway just by the nature of when it was constructed … but we can fix the mindset of the operators."
Newsday has previously reported that from 2014 to 2018 there were 43 fatal crashes on the Southern State Parkway.
"One thing we need to stop building is roadside memorials," Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors’ Association, a trade group, said at the news conference. Herbst said that driver safety is important to workers who are repaving and repairing the roads.
"Somebody goes through a barricade, that is a dangerous situation," Herbst said.
A spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in an email that the governor’s office would review the bill.
Brooks and Solages said they are waiting for the results of a study undertaken by the New York State Department of Transportation on the Southern State Parkway to provide additional information and recommendations that can be used to increase safety.
NYSDOT spokesman Joseph Morrissey said in an email Friday that the study has been completed and delivered to the governor's office and the leadership of the State Assembly and Senate.
The study looked at whether signage at entrance and exit ramps was adequate to deter incidents of wrong way driving.
"The study confirms that the countermeasures in place meet or exceed national engineering standards for deterring such incidents," Morrissey said in an email. "The report also concluded, however, that incidents of wrong way driving during the study period were 100% attributable to impaired driving."
Morrissey said the department continually reviews safety measures and that more than 400 safety enhancements have been completed along the Southern State Parkway during the last three years including new signs and highly reflective lane markings.