Editorial: Shine a light on pedestrian safety

Improving pedestrian safety at the Flanders Road crosswalk where a Riverside man was struck and seriously injured in a hit-and-run Sunday night starts with a simple enough solution: better lighting.

Achieving that goal, however, becomes trickier than expected. 

The 40-year-old man was hit by an SUV at the crosswalk just west of Vail Avenue, a poorly lit section of the road where a crosswalk would be unexpected for motorists unfamiliar with the area. In 2014, a crash at the same location claimed the life of a Riverside man and critically injured another man in a similar incident.

The crosswalk dates back to 1994 and was created at the request of Goodwill AME Zion Church, located just west on Flanders Road, according to the state Department of Transportation. Jurisdiction over Flanders Road belongs to two different entities and questions in the aftermath of Sunday’s crash resulted mostly in finger-pointing.

Is it Southampton Town’s responsibility? Or, more specifically, the town’s transportation and traffic safety office or parks and recreation? Or should it be the state DOT?

That’s the tangled web we’re left to unravel to begin improving safety at the crosswalk, which some residents have argued should eventually be moved to a new location altogether.

A state DOT spokeswoman, in response to inquiries from the News-Review, said the department has not yet received inquiries about the crosswalk’s safety or lighting and pointed to a program launched this past summer that aims to improve safety at all crosswalks. But action should be taken before that program finds its way to Riverside.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) noted that, in his experience, it’s been local government that has taken the initiative to install lighted crosswalks.

“They’ve done the installation and gotten the permit from the state,” Mr. Thiele said in an interview.

Southampton Town should take the initiative and work with the state DOT to install lighting at the crosswalk, as well as post additional signs to warn motorists of an upcoming crosswalk before they’re already on top of it.

It’s a simple solution and at least a start toward preventing the kind of tragedies that have unfolded at this crosswalk twice in the past two years.