Flanders family prepared to fight to keep roadway sign

07/18/2014 6:43 PM |
Members of the Tocci family in font of the sign Friday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Members of the Tocci family in front of the sign Friday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Two weeks after posting a large sign on Flanders Road urging drivers to avoid texting and driving, a Flanders woman said she is feeling pressure to take it down. 

In the wake of two fatal accidents earlier this year that killed two of her family members, Susan Tocci of Flanders erected the double-sided sign on her Flanders Road property.

The sign pictures her sister, Barbara Tocci on one side, with the words “Save a Life: Do Not Text and Drive. Barbara Tocci 1966-2014.”

Barbara was killed in a Jan. 16 collision with a PSEG-Long Island utility truck, which crossed two lanes of traffic on Flanders Road and hit her head-on.

Southampton Police officials said they concluded cell phone use and potholes in the area contributed to the fatal Flanders Road accident.

“The sign sends a good message,” said Susan Tocci, who is a 20-year veteran of the local volunteer ambulance corps. “The sign is so we don’t have to see what happened to my sister happen again.”

Just days earlier, Ms. Tocci said the family had been told by a state Department of Transportation official that a complaint had been made against the sign, which is on a state road.

Friday, Ms. Tocci received word of three state DOT trucks parked in the area. The workers asked permission from Ms. Tocci’s next-door neighbor to enter their property to do surveying work in regards to Flanders Road.

Ms. Tocci said her neighbor was told surveying would be done from the area of the Firehouse Lane to Pleasure Drive, which happen to be the two streets closest to either side of the sign.

She said she believes they are trying to confirm whether the sign is on private property.

“Why can’t they just knock on my door, and talk to me about what’s happening,” she said. “Tell me you have a question about my property. Don’t go sneaking around it.”

She said state DOT officials should instead be worried about fixing the potholes on Flanders Road, “the other contributing factor to my sister’s death.”

Ms. Tocci added that the official she spoke with at her property today “was very nice, and just doing his job.”

The workers surveying the area Friday dug up a triangular marker which was located just yards away from the sign. They told Ms. Tocci they would be back Monday and are anticipating about three additional days of surveying work to be done.

Officials from the state Department of Transportation could not immediately be reached for comment regarding the complaint, or why surveying work was being done in the area.

Ms. Tocci’s father, Philip, who had stopped by to support Ms. Tocci along with a number of other family members Friday, said he believes “they are looking for some kind of reason to get the sign out of here.”

“The sign is not coming down,” Ms. Tocci said. “It will help to save someone’s life. That’s what I want.”

The other side of the sign urges drivers to avoid drinking and driving. It reads: “Kadence will grow up without her mom. Do not drive under the influence. Hayley Riggins 1987-2014.″

Hayley Riggins was the fiancé of Barbara’s son, and she was killed in an April 24 accident in Redding, Calif. in which the motorcycle she was riding was hit by a car driven by a woman who ran a red light and was charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

cmiller@timesreview.com