Diana Alati, the mother of 13-year-old Andrew Alati, who was hit and killed by a car while biking across Hempstead Turnpike in 2019, is advocating for safety upgrades in the region. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware, Howard Schnapp; Johnny Milano; Kendall Rodriguez

More people died in traffic crashes on state routes 25 and 27 than on any other roads on Long Island from 2016 to 2020, according to a Newsday analysis of federal data that identified the five deadliest thoroughfares.

State Route 25, known as Jericho Turnpike and Middle Country Road, had 62 deaths, trailed closely behind by Route 27, also called Sunrise and Montauk highways, with 61 traffic fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. 

Sixty-five people were killed on State Route 25A, Suffolk County Route 80 and the western portion of State Route 24, primarily known as Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County.

Safety advocates said sections of those heavily traveled routes previously ranked among the most dangerous in the region. While campaigning for statewide legislation to drive down traffic fatalities and injuries, they urged officials to make more road modifications.

“It saddens me to know that Sunrise continues to be one of the main deadliest roads on Long Island,” said Sandi Vega, of Wantagh, whose 14-year-old daughter Brittany was killed by a car while she crossed Sunrise Highway in 2010.

Routes 25 and 27, and to some extent the other three arteries, weave through commercial and industrial areas, downtowns and even more sprawling zones with varying speed limits and design features that can make driving, walking and biking dangerous, traffic experts and safety advocates said. When the parkways and expressways are backed up, these five arteries are often the fastest alternative.

The fatalities on the five deadliest roads were:

The analysis looked at the five-year period of traffic fatalities through 2020, the latest year available. It excluded expressways and parkways and focused on roads used by vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, although some stretches of Sunrise Highway are not accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

To control for traffic volume, Newsday also calculated a rate of fatalities for each of the five roads using state traffic data from 2016 to 2019. Suffolk County Route 80 had the highest rate, at 5.2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles. The western portion of State Route 24 had 3.6, State Route 25 had 3.5, State Route 25A had 2.5, and State Route 27 had 1.4.

Perilous conditions can occur when the thoroughfares cut through shopping areas and intersections where cyclists, pedestrians and cars converge. Multiple driveways and turns into residential and commercial areas can create conflict zones, traffic experts said.

“We try to have our living experiences, shops and restaurants on roadways that are built to be highways, and that is a bad combination,” said Lucius Riccio, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation and executive vice president of Gedeon GRC Consulting, based in Syosset.

Roughly 35% of those killed on State Route 25 were pedestrians and cyclists, and on State Route 27, that figure was even higher, with pedestrians and cyclists accounting for 41% of fatalities.

The five routes serve multiple purposes during different stretches, potentially making them more hazardous, traffic experts said.

For example, Sunrise Highway transitions into a limited-access highway, and speed limits can quickly change from 40 to 55 mph, said Michael Shenoda, a professional traffic operations engineer who teaches at Farmingdale State College.

“Sometimes those changes are sudden and people aren’t anticipating them. They’re not adjusting the way they drive to the character of the roadway,” Shenoda added.

A coalition of New York transit safety groups has been lobbying state lawmakers to pass the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act, a package of legislation that aims to make roads safer. Some of the proposals would require cars to stay 3 feet from bicyclists and make it easier for car crash victims and their families to obtain police reports and testify at criminal hearings.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two bills into law this past summer. One requires instruction in pedestrian and bicyclist safety as part of a DMV pre-licensing course, and the other allows municipalities to lower their default maximum speed limits to 25 mph in a city, town or village. 

Diana Alati, of Bethpage, has been at the forefront of the safety campaign.

Her 13-year-old son Andrew Alati was fatally struck by a car in 2019 as he biked across a busy six-lane section of Hempstead Turnpike. She believes Andrew would be alive if the driver had not been speeding, the speed limit was lower and there were street safeguards along the business strip.

The driver admitted in a police statement that he was driving 55 mph at the time, Diana Alati said, but was not charged. Andrew was by a crosswalk in a 40 mph speed zone that is roughly one-third of a mile from the middle school he attended on Wantagh Avenue in Levittown. 

“There is a system here that is broken and we can do something to help,” said Alati, who at a recent State Assembly transportation committee hearing urged statewide policy changes. 

“There is a lack of consequences. There was nothing that was done in my son’s case … my son never stood a chance,” said Alati, a member of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets.

"Here on Long Island, they need to recognize where the problems are and make it safe for everyone."

Nassau County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Nicole Turso said in a statement: "An extensive investigation revealed that this matter, though tragic, did not result in prosecutable conduct under New York State law."

After her daughter was killed on Sunrise Highway, Sandi Vega was instrumental in pushing for "complete streets" legislation that requires state road plans to consider the needs of all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. She now supports expanding the policy through the safety act.

“We’re up against these 6,000-to-10,000-pound vehicles and we really want this to be a safer place and safer for our children,” said Vega, of Wantagh.

New York Department of Transportation spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said Long Island’s state highways are some of the busiest in the nation and the department continually reviews opportunities for safety enhancements. In a statement, he said the department has made hundreds of bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, including wider crosswalks, high-visibility signage, raised pedestrian medians and adjusted signal timing to calm traffic.
“Recognizing that safety is everyone’s responsibility, we urge motorists to drive responsibly, remain alert and be mindful of pedestrians and bicyclists. Pedestrians should only cross at dedicated crosswalks, adhere to crossing signals and always use caution, especially on busier roads,” he added.

Suffolk County also has made modifications to CR-80 since 2016, including adding sidewalks, improving signage, re-striping pavement markings, and putting rumble strips in some center lanes and shoulders, Department of Public Works Commissioner Joseph Brown said in a statement.

Safety advocates said more needs to be done.

Instead of waiting on massive funding for large-scale projects in downtown neighborhoods, advocates said municipalities should routinely make smaller upgrades. That could be as simple as adding bollards (vertical posts that provide a physical barrier between vehicles and people that are also used to separate traffic from structures), painting curbs and narrowing lanes to slow traffic, said Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island.
“We need to tame the speeds so cars can coexist with people. … Engineering has to coincide with speed limit laws. That can help turn the tide,” Alexander added.

More people died in traffic crashes on state routes 25 and 27 than on any other roads on Long Island from 2016 to 2020, according to a Newsday analysis of federal data that identified the five deadliest thoroughfares.

State Route 25, known as Jericho Turnpike and Middle Country Road, had 62 deaths, trailed closely behind by Route 27, also called Sunrise and Montauk highways, with 61 traffic fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. 

Sixty-five people were killed on State Route 25A, Suffolk County Route 80 and the western portion of State Route 24, primarily known as Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County.

Safety advocates said sections of those heavily traveled routes previously ranked among the most dangerous in the region. While campaigning for statewide legislation to drive down traffic fatalities and injuries, they urged officials to make more road modifications.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • State Route 25, known as Jericho Turnpike and Middle Country Road, had 62 deaths, trailed closely behind by State Route 27, also called Sunrise and Montauk highways, with 61 traffic fatalities, according to a Newsday analysis of federal highway data. 
  • Sixty-five people were killed on State Route 25A, Suffolk County Route 80 and the western portion of State Route 24, primarily known as Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County.

  • Safety advocates have been campaigning for a series of statewide bills to drive down traffic fatalities and injuries.

“It saddens me to know that Sunrise continues to be one of the main deadliest roads on Long Island,” said Sandi Vega, of Wantagh, whose 14-year-old daughter Brittany was killed by a car while she crossed Sunrise Highway in 2010.

Routes 25 and 27, and to some extent the other three arteries, weave through commercial and industrial areas, downtowns and even more sprawling zones with varying speed limits and design features that can make driving, walking and biking dangerous, traffic experts and safety advocates said. When the parkways and expressways are backed up, these five arteries are often the fastest alternative.

The fatalities on the five deadliest roads were:

  • State Route 25's 62 deaths included 18 pedestrians and four cyclists. The analysis examined roughly 90 miles from Floral Park to Orient Point.
  • State Route 27's 61 traffic deaths included 22 pedestrians and three cyclists. The analysis examined a 105-mile stretch from Valley Stream to Montauk Point.
  • State Route 25A had 26 fatalities, five of which were pedestrians and one a cyclist. The analysis examined 60 miles from University Gardens to Wading River.
  • Suffolk County Route 80 had 20 fatalities, including two pedestrians and one cyclist. The road is 32 miles from Bay Avenue in East Patchogue to Knoll Road in Shinnecock Hills.
  • State Route 24, primarily known as Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau, had 19 total fatalities, including eight pedestrians and two cyclists. The analysis on Route 24, which is also referred to as Fulton Avenue in Hempstead Village and Conklin Street in Farmingdale Village, covered 16 miles from Elmont to East Farmingdale.

Fatal motor vehicle crashes in Nassau and Suffolk counties on state routes 25, 25A and 27, the western portion of State Route 24, and Suffolk County Route 80, between 2016 and 2020. Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The analysis looked at the five-year period of traffic fatalities through 2020, the latest year available. It excluded expressways and parkways and focused on roads used by vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, although some stretches of Sunrise Highway are not accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

To control for traffic volume, Newsday also calculated a rate of fatalities for each of the five roads using state traffic data from 2016 to 2019. Suffolk County Route 80 had the highest rate, at 5.2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles. The western portion of State Route 24 had 3.6, State Route 25 had 3.5, State Route 25A had 2.5, and State Route 27 had 1.4.

Experts blame speed

Perilous conditions can occur when the thoroughfares cut through shopping areas and intersections where cyclists, pedestrians and cars converge. Multiple driveways and turns into residential and commercial areas can create conflict zones, traffic experts said.

“We try to have our living experiences, shops and restaurants on roadways that are built to be highways, and that is a bad combination,” said Lucius Riccio, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation and executive vice president of Gedeon GRC Consulting, based in Syosset.

Roughly 35% of those killed on State Route 25 were pedestrians and cyclists, and on State Route 27, that figure was even higher, with pedestrians and cyclists accounting for 41% of fatalities.

A makeshift memorial with flowers and candles lies at the site...

A makeshift memorial with flowers and candles lies at the site of a fatal car crash in May on State Route 25, also known as Jericho Turnpike, in New Hyde Park. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The five routes serve multiple purposes during different stretches, potentially making them more hazardous, traffic experts said.

For example, Sunrise Highway transitions into a limited-access highway, and speed limits can quickly change from 40 to 55 mph, said Michael Shenoda, a professional traffic operations engineer who teaches at Farmingdale State College.

“Sometimes those changes are sudden and people aren’t anticipating them. They’re not adjusting the way they drive to the character of the roadway,” Shenoda added.

Mothers fight for fixes

A coalition of New York transit safety groups has been lobbying state lawmakers to pass the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act, a package of legislation that aims to make roads safer. Some of the proposals would require cars to stay 3 feet from bicyclists and make it easier for car crash victims and their families to obtain police reports and testify at criminal hearings.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two bills into law this past summer. One requires instruction in pedestrian and bicyclist safety as part of a DMV pre-licensing course, and the other allows municipalities to lower their default maximum speed limits to 25 mph in a city, town or village. 

Diana Alati, of Bethpage, has been at the forefront of the safety campaign.

Her 13-year-old son Andrew Alati was fatally struck by a car in 2019 as he biked across a busy six-lane section of Hempstead Turnpike. She believes Andrew would be alive if the driver had not been speeding, the speed limit was lower and there were street safeguards along the business strip.

Diana Alati, of Bethpage, holds a photo of her late...

Diana Alati, of Bethpage, holds a photo of her late son, Andrew Alati, who attended Island Trees Memorial Middle School in Levittown. Diana lost Andrew in 2019 after he was struck by a vehicle on State Route 24, also known as Hempstead Turnpike, while riding his bicycle. Hempstead Turnpike has a 40 mph speed zone at its intersection with Wantagh Avenue, which is located roughly a third of a mile from the school. Credit: Chris Ware

The driver admitted in a police statement that he was driving 55 mph at the time, Diana Alati said, but was not charged. Andrew was by a crosswalk in a 40 mph speed zone that is roughly one-third of a mile from the middle school he attended on Wantagh Avenue in Levittown. 

“There is a system here that is broken and we can do something to help,” said Alati, who at a recent State Assembly transportation committee hearing urged statewide policy changes. 

'There is a lack of consequences. There was nothing that was done in my son’s case … my son never stood a chance.'

-Diana Alati

Credit: Chris Ware

“There is a lack of consequences. There was nothing that was done in my son’s case … my son never stood a chance,” said Alati, a member of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets.

"Here on Long Island, they need to recognize where the problems are and make it safe for everyone."

Nassau County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Nicole Turso said in a statement: "An extensive investigation revealed that this matter, though tragic, did not result in prosecutable conduct under New York State law."

After her daughter was killed on Sunrise Highway, Sandi Vega was instrumental in pushing for "complete streets" legislation that requires state road plans to consider the needs of all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. She now supports expanding the policy through the safety act.

“We’re up against these 6,000-to-10,000-pound vehicles and we really want this to be a safer place and safer for our children,” said Vega, of Wantagh.

State: Improvements have been made

New York Department of Transportation spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said Long Island’s state highways are some of the busiest in the nation and the department continually reviews opportunities for safety enhancements. In a statement, he said the department has made hundreds of bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, including wider crosswalks, high-visibility signage, raised pedestrian medians and adjusted signal timing to calm traffic.
“Recognizing that safety is everyone’s responsibility, we urge motorists to drive responsibly, remain alert and be mindful of pedestrians and bicyclists. Pedestrians should only cross at dedicated crosswalks, adhere to crossing signals and always use caution, especially on busier roads,” he added.

Suffolk County also has made modifications to CR-80 since 2016, including adding sidewalks, improving signage, re-striping pavement markings, and putting rumble strips in some center lanes and shoulders, Department of Public Works Commissioner Joseph Brown said in a statement.

Safety advocates said more needs to be done.

Instead of waiting on massive funding for large-scale projects in downtown neighborhoods, advocates said municipalities should routinely make smaller upgrades. That could be as simple as adding bollards (vertical posts that provide a physical barrier between vehicles and people that are also used to separate traffic from structures), painting curbs and narrowing lanes to slow traffic, said Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island.
“We need to tame the speeds so cars can coexist with people. … Engineering has to coincide with speed limit laws. That can help turn the tide,” Alexander added.

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