Editorial: We must do all we can to prevent another tragedy

07/23/2015 5:59 AM |

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At this stage, motor vehicle accidents are an inevitable, unfortunate fact of life. As long as we have cars and roads, accidents and crashes are bound to occur.

Here on the North Fork, where many people visit and participate in activities that involve alcohol, the risk of a crash can increase.

Factor in our growing deer population and the use of cellphones on our roads, and we are in even greater danger.

We must do everything in our power to make sure we take responsibility for our actions on local roads.

The eight young women killed or injured in Saturday’s horrific crash did their part by hiring a driver to take them to their destinations in Riverhead and Southold towns. The other driver, who allegedly drank beer at home before getting behind the wheel, seems not to have done his.

If it is proven in a court of law that Steven Romeo was driving drunk Saturday night, he should be penalized to the full extent of the law.

While we can’t eliminate motor vehicle crashes entirely anytime soon, there are many more things we can do to mitigate the risk of another tragedy like the one we all experienced this week.

• Last year, this newspaper’s editorial board called for the installation of interlock devices in all new vehicles. Following this week’s crash, Newsday called for the same. Using existing technology that prevents drunk drivers from starting their cars is an effective way to prevent disasters from occurring.

• We must find a way to fund Stop DWI patrols every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in all five East End towns. This is an action that can be taken swiftly at the local level, and changes can be made as success or failure is determined. The patrols have proven effective over holiday weekends, though expanding them makes sense — if we can only find a way to fund them regularly over the long term.

• In response to this week’s tragedy, the county, town and state should re-evaluate the effectiveness of all blinking yellow lights in our area. They should be replaced with regular traffic signals where appropriate. And while we’re encouraged to hear that a traffic light is in the works for the intersection of Route 48 and Depot Lane, we believe a left-turn signal should also be installed.

• State lawmakers should consider a law making it illegal for limousine drivers to make U-turns on all roads in New York. These vehicles are simply too big, and too many lives are put at risk each time a limo driver makes the decision to make those turns.

• Increase the penalties for DWI convictions, including permanent loss of a license for all repeat offenders. Would you drive drunk if it meant you might never be allowed to drive again?

(PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Gannon)

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