Legislators renew calls to pass Southern State Parkway driver safety bill after fatal accident

LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- Two days after a fatal accident on the Southern State Parkway, New York State legislators from Long Island are renewing their calls to secure a special traffic designation for the Southern State Parkway, which would increase police presence on the roadway and penalties for drivers who violate safe driving standards.

"This is a natural next step in reaching a safer highway," said New York State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, D-North Valley Stream, who is sponsoring the "S.O.S. Safety on Southern State" bill.

If approved, the bill would allow for the designation of the Southern State Parkway as a "Highway Safety Corridor." The parkway would get additional signage, would have an increased police presence and higher financial penalties for drivers. Speed cameras could also be an option.

"We see time and time again that there are fatalities on the highway," Solages said. "There are multiple accidents, wrong-way drivers. It's something we see over and over again and we can't just sit here and say, 'Oh, it's driver behavior.' We need to act."

On Tuesday, 75-year-old Richard Riggs, of Holbrook, was killed near exit 39 in Babylon. Police say people driving a stolen Range Rover caused a multi-vehicle accident which killed Riggs.

The suspects got into another car and fled the scene. Police are still looking for them.



Last month, a man was killed near exit 38 when someone rear-ended his car.

According to state officials, in the last two years, more than 1,700 crashes have been reported on the Southern State Parkway and more than 12 people have been killed.

"We can't change the parkway," said New York State Senator John Brooks, D-Massapequa, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate. "We need to change the rules that we use for the parkway."

"The 'S.O.S. Safety on Southern State' bill will be a huge first step in creating a safer commute on Long Island for all families," said the Long Island Contractor's Association Executive Director Marc Herbst. "Let's get this done before we lose even more life."

Wrong-way drivers have also plagued the Southern State. In September, two people were killed in North Massapequa by a wrong-way driver.

Those with the New York State Department of Transportation recently studied signage on the entrance and exit ramps of the Parkway. People have often pointed to the the signs as not being significant enough to deter wrong way drivers.

The study, released in March, determined adequate safety measures exist to deter incidents of wrong way driving on the Parkway. The study found impaired drivers were to blame.

"While I am pleased that the attached report concludes that the Southern State Parkway has appropriate safety measures in place to deter incidents of wrong way driving, we will not be satisfied until the number of incidents are reduced to zero," wrote DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez in her cover letter with the report.

Brooks said he's had enough of the studies.

"When we do those reports and studies we come back and basically, defensively, say we've done what needed to do," he said.

Those with the State DOT said more than 400 safety enhancements have been completed along the Southern State Parkway during the last three years ranging from new signs to highly reflective lane markings.

A spokesperson for the DOT said the department does not comment on pending legislation.

Solages and Brooks are hopeful the bill will pass the next legislative session.

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