If you were driving along Main Road or Route 48 in Southold Town Sunday you may have noticed an unusual sight: Suffolk County police patrolling our roads.
Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said the Suffolk County Police Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Section reached out to him about conducting special patrols following last week’s fatal limousine crash on Route 48 in Cutchogue. The unit utilizes federal grant money to set up special patrols throughout the county and to perform safety checks with limousines, buses and other commercial vehicles.
“This was in response to last week’s accident,” Chief Flatley said. “The county had reached out to us and we felt it was very appropriate given what had occurred.”
Chief Flatley said nine limos and buses were stopped Sunday and three summonses were issued, but no other details were immediately available. He said the units inspected the vehicles for safety issues and to check that drivers are operating in compliance with the law.
The Suffolk Times observed two of those traffic stops at the intersection of Route 48 and Depot Lane, where last week’s crash occurred, though Chief Flatley said the patrols extended east from the Riverhead Town line to Peconic and south from Route 48 to Main Road. Two Southold police traffic control units assisted in the patrols.
Chief Flatley said limo traffic was a bit lighter in that area Sunday, though it’s common for drivers to avoid the patrols once word of the inspections spreads.
The patrols came one day after the Long Island Limousine Association told Newsday it has asked its members to avoid making U-turns on main roads following news of last week’s crash, when the driver of the limousine was struck by an alleged drunk driver while making a legal U-turn. Four limo passengers were killed in the crash and four more were injured along with both drivers.
“Safety is our main objective here,” Robert Cunningham, president of LILA and owner of Platinum Limousine in Stony Brook, told Newsday.
“No one wants to see this happen again,” added Charles Gandolfo, a board member of the association, which represents 70 companies.
Neither Mr. Cunningham nor Mr. Gandolfo could be reached for comment Monday.
The Suffolk Times monitored the intersection at Route 48 and Depot Lane Sunday afternoon and found that while a total of 43 vehicles made a U-turn to head west at the blinking yellow light during the 5 1/2 hours of observation, no limousines did. Five of the vehicles making the legal U-turn were police patrols and two were taxi vans.
At least 25 percent of the vehicles making U-turns at the intersection Sunday afternoon had left nearby Vineyard 48 like the limousine involved in last week’s crash, though all of the limousines leaving the vineyard Sunday headed south on Depot Lane toward Main Road. At least one of those limousines was stopped by a Suffolk County police officer after making the right-hand turn onto Depot. It was not clear if that driver was issued a summons.
Workers with Johnson Controls were at the crash site Monday starting to build the foundation for a new traffic light at the intersection. They said PSEG-LI will have to raise the wires there before the work can be completed. County Legislator Al Krupski said last week that plans to install the traffic light were in place before the crash.
Photo Caption: A bus is inspected along Route 48 in Cutchogue by officers from the Suffolk County and Southold Town police departments Sunday afternoon. (Credit: Grant Parpan)
With Nicole Smith