At a recent roundtable East End officials gathered to discuss what we all already know -- the traffic situation in these parts is dreadful, and getting worse by the day.
There seemed to be a perception there were more fatalities this year than in years past, but the statistics don't play out. Regardless, this summer was undoubtedly the worst ever for traffic congestion, especially for those who need to drive to work.
County Legislator Jay Schneiderman pointed out that the use of cellphones by drivers is rampant, either for talking, texting, or surfing, yet tickets are seldom issued. Local police responded that it is difficult to catch people in the act, and that's a cop out (pardon the pun). We see scores of people every day with phones to their ears while driving – pull them over and ticket them, period. We also notice traffic control personnel standing idly by while drivers commit assorted infractions right in front of them. They should be trained to order the driver to pull over and call an officer to the scene.
We've never liked the idea of electronic surveillance, but unfortunately the time has probably come to use automated cameras to catch speeders, as Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst suggested. The cameras are widely in use in Europe now, and statistics prove they act as a crime deterrent as well.
We also like the automated crossroad lighting recently installed in East Hampton Village; drivers have over the years begun to blatantly disregard pedestrian crossings, and it's not only rude, it's dangerous, particularly when there are multiple lanes of traffic.
One solution to our traffic woes voiced at the meeting should be implemented immediately. Suffolk County medical examiner Yvonne Milewski pointed out that when a fatality occurs traffic comes to a standstill sometimes for many hours, as was the case on County Road 39 during the summer. The reason is a medical examiner must declare a person legally dead before the scene of the accident is cleared. That means we wait until the examiner drives out here. Milewski suggested that emergency personnel be empowered to make the call, thus limiting the time the victims remain on the roadways.
The bottom line is we all need to reassess our driving habits. As one official noted, for some reason Long Island drivers are extremely aggressive. The combination of heavy traffic, aggressive driving, and someone rushing to get to work -- or a ritzy party -- is a recipe for disaster. That said, aggressive drivers should be aggressively ticketed – and the courts should be less inclined to plea bargain them down. Let the points pile up, and eventually the worst of the lot will lose their driving privileges.