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Fatal Accident has DOT Scrutinizing Safety Fixes for Route 25

The latest death of pedestrian Seamus Byrne has officials and locals looking for better ways to prevent such tragedies along Smithtown's deadly Main Street.

The Sunday death of 33-year-old Seamus Byrne, , has sparked a renewed interest from the New York State Department of Transportation over pedestrian safety concerns on what has become a deadly stretch of road.

According to DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters, the DOT will reexamine the pedestrian safety conditions of Route 25, though it is too early to conclude what, if any, measures can be taken to improve pedestrian safety.

A full investigation of the accident is necessary.

“Right now we don’t have any specifics about the accident,” Peters said. “We will request a [police] report [and] investigate it later in the week. It’s a little premature really to commit to anything until we know the circumstances of the accident. It’s a little too early.”

Police have said that Byrne, a decorated war veteran who served in Afghanistan, was crossing the road outside of the Napper Tandys pub early Sunday morning. He had just left his own birthday party.

The driver who hit him has not been charged with a crime.

According to data provided by the DOT, there were 359 accidents including one fatality on Route 25 from 2003 to 2008. Of the 359 accidents, 16 involved pedestrians.

Following the tragic death of 11-year-old Courtney Sipes in November 2009 at this same intersection, the DOT sought to improve pedestrian safety by implementing 13 safety measures. Those include installing a fence on south side of Route 25 between Lawrence Avenue and Landing Avenue, increasing pedestrian crossing time, installing a Leading Pedestrian Interval that provides a “walk” sign seconds before vehicles get a green light and installing timers to let pedestrians know how much time they have to cross the road.

With all the new safety measures implemented, Peters said this latest accident has troubled the DOT.

“The fact that we have been making all of these safety improvements makes our dismay and distress over this tragedy even worse, much worse, because we have been working with the locals and the Town of Smithtown and committees to improve safety in this area,” Peters said.

Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, R–Smithtown, said despite the Byrne accident, the safety improvements have helped.

“The road will always be dangerous," he said. "What you can do is take measures to reduce the risk but you’re never going to eliminate it entirely. [We can] do whatever we can to minimize those risks and trust that people will be careful.”

Town of Smithtown Traffic Safety Department Director Mitchell Crowley, who had submitted comments and ideas to Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio for the first meeting with the DOT to improve safety conditions, said the improvements made were worthwhile but does allow room for pedestrian error and did not improve the safety of the actual intersection.

“I know they did install a fence to improve jaywalking, which I thought was a worthwhile thing to do, unfortunately that does not help the safety at the intersection itself. They did try to do things with the phasing to help crossing pedestrians, they reduced the green phase on [Route] 25 to enable it easier for pedestrians to cross [but] when the green phases are too long the pedestrians tend to ignore waiting for their phase to cross,” he said.

Dan Stapleton, co-owner Napper Tandy’s, the bar where Byrne was celebrating his birthday with friends and family the night he was killed, said Route 25 has always had safety problems with no concrete solutions. Stapleton, who was friends with Byrne, named the Sipes death and an incident in January 2010 where Charles Doonan and Mirtha Rotkowitz were injured after being hit by a vehicle when they were crossing Route 25 headed to the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts as evidence that something must be done.

“This road is just deadly, every year someone gets killed out there,” he said. “It’s four lanes, it’s in the middle of a town, at night traffic is moving fast through town."

And for Stapleton, the DOTs safety improvements aren't enough.

"They tried to nibble at it but they don’t seem to be able to come up with a game plan that makes it safe for pedestrians.”

me March 04, 2011 at 04:29 AM
Has any "Department Head" ever thought of a "pedestrian overpass"???...They are used for a reason. Perhaps the DOT and the Town of Smithtown should look into that. I live in Smithtown ...there have been 2 deaths at the SAME intersection in less than 16 months-- A 10 year old little girl and a 33 year old war Veteran--What will it take next ???? Please, let's get it together. We pay enough in taxes to live in this town. Let's use our TAX DOLLARS WISELY!!!!!
Bill Davis March 04, 2011 at 06:40 AM
We all agree that there are terrible drivers out there, and not just kids on lunch break from high school but parents on lunch breaks as well. I live off Lawrence, by Smithtown elm. school, and am at the corner of Main and Lawrence 3-4 times a day. Pedestrians do have the right of way but they also need to observe the rules of the road as well. I have seen way too many people crossing two to three cars from the corner, against the light, people running to make the light and at night the young studs hopping over their new toy, the railing. Better lighting will illuminate the jay walkers at night, or better yet more parking behind the north side of Main st. would help stop people from having to park on the south side and now with the expansion of Napper Tandy's there will be more foot traffic then ever at night. Where is our foot patrol officer we had? Instead of just speeding tickets how about jay walking tickets? Ever try to turn at that intersection on a weekend with the crowds getting out of the play or the Bars after a game? Both drivers and pedestrians have to share the responsibility of safe passage at the intersection. The "no right turn on red" sign is a joke. If the town or county want to raise some revenue place an officer at the intersection, catch all the "no hands free " cell users and the right turn on red drivers as well as the jay walkers. We ALL deserve safe roads.
ed March 07, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Patrols and lots of it. What happend to our police. I never see anyone getting a ticket any more. Even on most roads I see no police. Arent they paid enough. Come on.. Drivers today are worse than ever and dont care. As you see with the red light cameras. Its not the ones that obay the law that is making us be watched its the ones who have no respect for the road.
winifred preble March 08, 2011 at 03:09 PM
I live in Smithtown and travel Route 25 daily. I believe the lighting on Main Street should be brighter to illuminate the street better. I know we have lights on nice poles but they don't throw off enough light. There are many bars and resteraunts on the north side of the street that are open late without sufficent parking so patrons park on the opposite side of the street.Late at night patrons may feel it is safe to cross between the lights because of less traffic but unfortunately drivers at night seem to drive above the speed limit.We need to do more to avoid future tradgedies. Maybe a fence on the north side also?
Jennifer May 06, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Main Street should be re-designed to be one lane in each direction with parking created along the storefronts on the north side. It will slow down traffic and prevent the need to cross the street from the south side parking lot to access the north side strip. It will also slow traffic down and help to improve the 'walking' traffic for the shops along Main street. These tragedies have to stop now!

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