Smithtown's dangerous but ignored stretch of Routes 25 and 25A is finally getting the attention of transportation and law enforcement officials. The price for government action, however, was just too high.

In November, Courtney Snipes, 11, died after being hit by an SUV while crossing East Main Street. The driver, who is accused of injecting herself with heroin an hour before hitting Snipes, was charged this week with second-degree manslaughter. Six weeks after Snipes' death and a block away, Charles Doonan, 65, and Mirtha Rotkowitz, 61, of Queens, were seriously injured while trying to walk across the same street.

The events were tragic but not surprising to the residents and merchants in the area, who for years have expressed fears about the road's safety. And they were right. State Department of Transportation records show that there were 359 crashes along this 11/2-mile stretch of road between 2005 and 2008. The contributing causes were not just the poor road configuration and signage, but disregard for the 30 mph speed limit. Now there is a no-turn-on-red sign, and traffic lights have been reworked to give pedestrians more time. Other safety improvements are under way. Better enforcement of traffic laws is key.

These were necessary and relatively inexpensive measures - ones that should have been implemented years ago based on the accident statistics, not the terrible headlines. hN