Editorial: Be careful on our roads; lives depend on it

In recent days we have published a number of stories on car accidents, the sentencing of a driver in a pedestrian’s death as well as an accident in which a cyclist was injured badly enough to require medevac transport to Stony Brook Medical Center.

So it seems fitting this week, as spring settles in and people head outdoors, to remind drivers to be cautious and to understand that they share the road and don’t own it. You might be irritated that the line of bike riders along the shoulder slows you down for a few seconds, but they have every right to share the road, which all of our tax dollars helped pay for.

Besides, were you really inconvenienced? The North Fork is a fabulous place to ride a good road bike, at least in the sense of terrific scenery. But that’s about it. There are few dedicated bike lanes and everyone who has regularly ridden our roads on a good bike knows drivers can be aggressive and overtly hostile — flipping them off or screaming at them from open car windows.

The condition of roadway shoulders isn’t always great, either, with sand and pebbles waiting to trip up a bike. Riders also regularly talk about drivers who pass them so closely the passenger side mirror misses the bike by just a few inches. Others talk about drivers who pass them while talking or texting on their smartphones. All in all, it’s dangerous out there.

The Southampton Town Police Department announced this week plans to participate in a distracted driving initiative that will run April 8-12. The department noted a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that found in about 80% of crashes, a driver was looking away from the road ahead just prior to the crash.

Looking away for two or more seconds can double the risk of a crash, police said.

And it’s not just cellphones and texting that can be problematic. Driver inattention due to drowsiness can also increase the risk of a crash at least fourfold, police said. Any secondary task undertaken while driving — whether it be eating, applying makeup or using a phone — increases the risk factor.

In the Riverhead News-Review you’ll see a story about a driver who, police believe, swerved to avoid another car on Sound Avenue in Riverhead, went off the road and hit a tree, flipping over the car.

You’ll also see a story about a 61-year-old man who was killed in an accident near the EPCAL entrance in Calverton. Police say he likely ran a red light at the intersection of Route 25 and was struck by another vehicle.

In The Suffolk Times we report on an accident that occurred Sunday — a lovely Easter afternoon on the North Fork — when a driver police say was impaired by drugs struck a cyclist on Route 48 in Southold, then hit another vehicle before plowing into an embankment and flipping her vehicle. 

You will also read about the sentencing of a driver who struck and killed an 87-year-old Peconic Landing resident last July at the corner of Front and Third streets in Greenport. Her name was Elaine Schwartz. 

She succumbed to her injuries. The driver fled the scene only to be arrested later the same day. Last week he was sentenced to serve up to nine years in prison.

Who was Ms. Schwartz? Our Northforker magazine profiled her in 2018. She was a remarkable world traveler. She kayaked in both the Arctic and the Antarctic — in the same year. She was described as a vital member of the Peconic Landing community. She had years ahead of her — if only.

Her adventurous embracing of life ended on a street corner in Greenport. 

Be very careful out there. Lives depend on it.