‘No turn on red’ signs aim to cut deaths on Hempstead Turnpike
Drivers on the Hempstead Turnpike on Long Island have noticed a growing number of ‘No Turn On Red’ signs popping up on their commute. The Department of Transportation has installed more than 200 signs along the 31-mile road in an effort to reduce pedestrian deaths on New York’s most dangerous turnpike.
The turnpike is consistently named the most dangerous roadway for pedestrians in the tri-state area, with 20 deaths and 326 crashes between 2008 and 2011.
Pedestrians believe these signs would be helpful if they were actually obeyed.
“I was crossing the street and there is a no turn on red sign and a guy turned right in front of me and I wasn’t expecting [it],” said pedestrian Hannah Schwartz.
Drivers also believe other factors play a larger role in accidents on the turnpike.
“Most of the problems I’ve seen on Hempstead Turnpike are related to the speed”, said Hofstra University engineer Joe Giordano, who uses the turnpike everyday. “Drivers are driving too fast and it’s just a dangerous road.”
He also says the ‘No Turn on Red’ signs may increase car accidents as drivers brake too quickly in order to avoid red light ticketing.
“I’ve seen people change their minds at the last minute not to run the red light so they don’t get a ticket,” says Giordano. “I’ve seen them come up very short.”
However, some drivers say the signs will improve driver behavior as the price of tickets will teach drivers their lesson.
“I have gotten three red light tickets and it’s kind of a wake-up call,” said Hofstra junior Kyle Miller. Miller believes the ticketing will be beneficial because he has witnessed reckless driving on the turnpike.
A report from Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency says the county’s share of gross traffic and parking fines is nearly $20 million. Nassau County expects that in the last year red light revenue reached six million dollars.
“I don’t think [the NYSDOT is] doing it to be like, oh let’s collect more money or let’s ticket more people,” said driver Jenna Tanzola, who sees the benefits of the signs outweighing possible consequences. “I think it really is a genuine attempt at safety but I just don’t think that they are going about it the correct way.”
In the past year, the New York State Department of Transportation has made other improvements to increase safety along the turnpike, including widening crosswalks and lengthening pedestrian crossing times at traffic signals.
The NYSDOT estimates that they’ve spent about $7 million in the past five years to improve the safety of the Hempstead Turnpike, and they plan to continue to invest in changes.