SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY – August 24, 2020 – According to an online news report published on nytimes.com, Suffolk County’s roads are the most fatal in New York state due to a dangerous combination of high traffic, unsafe road design, and speed. One safety advocacy group alleges New York’s transportation officials are withholding significant crash data.
An investigation conducted by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a Manhattan nonprofit group, affirmed that New York’s four most deadly roadways were located in Suffolk County. The study noted that the Jericho Turnpike had the highest number of fatal accidents, and the Sunrise Highway was not far behind. According to the study, no other major roadways in New York come close to the number of accidents on the number of fatalities as the Jericho Turnpike and the Sunrise Highway. The study found that the number of Jericho Turnpike fatalities were at least three higher than Queens Boulevard, Northern Boulevard, Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island, and Broadway in Manhattan.
The Jericho Turnpike and the Sunrise Highway were also ranked number one and number two in fatal intersection accidents. The numbers factored in fatal pedestrian accidents, which were nearly a third of the fatal intersection accident deaths.
Suffolk County’s Long Island Expressway was third on the list of the deadliest roads in New York. However, the numbers were significantly lower. Route 25A in Suffolk County was ranked fourth.
Jon Orcutt, Executive Director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, stated that Suffolk County has a lengthy history of fatal accidents. He added that ‘Suffolk County is the clear leader in terms of most traffic fatalities each and every year. Mr. Orcutt said that if New York’s transportation officials would provide access to their more detailed crash reports, the group could identify the most dangerous intersections and sections of Suffolk County roads to find solutions. However, these detailed crash reports are not made available to the public.
The study was only able to conduct the research study based on the limited crash data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those basic reports only provided the number of deaths for each roadway by county.
According to the news report, the State Transportation Department collects much more granular information concerning transportation accidents and data to identify unsafe intersections. However, the reports are not ordinarily released to the public. The New York State Department of Transportation collects the data and uses the information to receive federal funding designed to eliminate those hazards.
Several lawsuits have reached the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the plaintiff’s in Newsday v. State Department of Transportation. The lawsuit was filed against the New York State Department of Transportation after a reporter for Newsday submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to the New York State Department of Transportation asking for its “priority list of hazardous intersections and locations” for the regions of New York City and Long Island. New York’s Department of Transportation is required to create these reports in accordance with the Federal Hazard Elimination Program. Ultimately, the New York Supreme Court granted Newsday’s motion to compel disclosure, and the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court of New York affirmed the decision.
The New York Department of Transportation argued against releasing the accident data stating that the data could increase New York State’s liability in accident injury and wrongful death lawsuits at specific locations.
Michelle Ernst, a Surface Transportation Policy Project analyst, compiled data for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign study stated that one Suffolk County statistic stood out to her. She explained that “failure to yield the right of way” is the most common type of fatal accident in Suffolk County, whereas this type of accident was only ranked fourth in New York State accident statistics.
Christopher McBride, a traffic specialist with Automobile Club of New York, explained that traffic volume, along with high speed, creates an obvious traffic hazard that “makes for higher crash rates.” Mr. McBride also stated that Suffolk County roads weren’t designed to manage the amount of traffic volume and support the dense development and that the hazard is the result of poor planning by officials.
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