Newsday: Call to Action to Curb Wrong-Way Driving

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

December 13, 2010

by Zachary R. Dowdy

State Sen. Charles Fuschillo on Friday joined two other Long Island officials in calling for state officials to devise ways to curb wrong-way driving.

County law enforcement agencies, meanwhile, are planning to beef up their presence on the roads for the holiday season.

The annual effort geared toward catching impaired drivers coincides with an uptick in wrong-way drivers on major Island roadways, most of whom allegedly were intoxicated.

Fuschillo (R-Merrick), in a letter sent Friday to acting state Department of Transportation Commissioner Stanley Gee, wrote, "This letter is simply not a request for a review but a call to action."

"The New York State Department of Transportation must develop an immediate plan on these and other sites detailing corrective measures to prevent drivers from entering our state roadways the wrong way," he wrote.

Deborah Rausch, a DOT spokeswoman in Albany, said the office has not received the letter and could not yet respond.

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) are pressing for a study of remedies to wrong-way driving - Rice in a letter last month to the DOT and Marcellino through proposed legislation.

Since early July, at least seven wrong-way drivers have been arrested in Nassau and Suffolk counties, with three arrests this month alone. Four of the incidents resulted in crashes that killed three people.

Police on Friday said increased patrols should help.

"We always do supplemental patrols around the holidays," said Chief Michael Sharkey of Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco's office, which assigns deputy sheriffs to the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway.

Suffolk police last month assigned seven more officers on the roads, specifically to spot drivers who are aggressive or intoxicated between Thanksgiving and the start of next year.

"The holidays should be a time for family and friends, and at this time of year our law enforcement takes extra efforts to minimize the chances that anyone will be involved in an horrific 'Wrong Way' or DWI-related crash," Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said in a statement.

Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, a Nassau police spokesman, said the common denominator in the wrong-way incidents is intoxication.

"On selected nights, we will have our highway patrol bureau engage in a DWI saturation enforcement strategy," he said. "We will have extra officers out on patrol at strategic times to engage in zero-tolerance DWI enforcement."