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Here’s quickest way to make the Southern State Parkway safer

A view of traffic on the Southern State

A view of traffic on the Southern State Parkway in Merrick, early Tuesday evening, Nov. 22, 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. It’s Saturday night on the Southern State Parkway. Or Sunday evening. Or Tuesday afternoon. Or pretty much anytime on any day on one of Long Island’s most dangerous roads.

Part of the problem is the road itself. Its curves and hills and narrow lanes bring out the worst impulses of too many Mario Andretti and Dale Earnhardt wannabes. So we understand why state lawmakers are proposing legislation to require the state Department of Transportation to do a safety study of those 26 miles of mayhem.

But the DOT did such a study in 2013, finding that the highway had more than 10,500 accidents, more than 3,000 with injuries, and 32 with fatalities, from 2007 to 2011. And the agency made changes, some ongoing, including lengthening some entrance ramps, painting solid lines to discourage lane changes on curves, switching to more reflective signs, improving lighting, and upgrading and adding guardrails.

That’s not to say there might not be room for more improvements. But at this point, it should be clear that this is primarily a people problem. We drive too fast and take too many chances. The DOT found that 84 percent of those fatal crashes involved cars veering into another vehicle or careening off the road. The biggest contributing factor was excessive speed. And anybody who has driven the road knows that’s true.

So let’s not talk about the massive project of straightening and widening the Southern State; spending billions of dollars and using eminent domain to seize the land that would be required is just not feasible. Instead, let’s talk about more State Police patrols and more enforcement. Let’s explore speed cameras. But mostly, let’s all just slow down.

— The editorial board


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