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Cops: Wrong-way driver on Route 51 charged with DWI

An intoxicated woman driving the wrong way on Route 51 nearly struck numerous vehicles head-on, causing motorists to swerve off the road to avoid to a collision early Saturday morning, Southampton Town police said.

The driver led police on a chase from Northampton into East Moriches before eventually pulling over on Sunrise Highway where she was arrested on numerous charges, including driving while intoxicated, police said.

Jennifer Paterno, 31, of Patchogue and Bloomfield, N.J., was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree unlawful fleeing of a police officer, reckless driving and DWI in addition to numerous traffic infractions, police said.

The chase began at about 12:41 a.m. when members of the Community Response Unit driving northbound on Route 51 near Old Moriches Road were passed by a white Audi convertible traveling south in the northbound lane at a high rate of speed, police said. The officers turned around to pursue the vehicle while driving parallel in the southbound lane.

At the Route 51 and 111 intersection, the Audi narrowly missed striking a full-size charter bus making a left turn from southbound Route 111 onto northbound 51. It was unclear if any passengers were on the bus, police said.

Ms. Paterno continued driving south in the northbound lane until reaching the Valero gas station in Eastport where she made a U-turn to head north on Eastport-Manor Road before making another U-turn back onto Route 51 in the southbound lane to exit onto Sunrise Highway in the westbound ramp where she accelerated at a high rate of speed while still being pursued by police, according to a press release.

After driving about one mile on Sunrise Highway, she pulled over on the side of the highway and was taken into custody, police said.

No injuries were reported. Ms. Paterno was held for a morning arraignment, police said.

Any motorists who may have witnessed the incident are asked to contact police at 631-702-2250.