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Event Recap: WSLI Rally for Pedestrian Safety

Advocates, Community Members, Physicians, and Local Government Rallied for Pedestrian Safety at Good Samaritan University Hospital on August 31


In the wake of an especially deadly August on Long Island’s roadways, Walk Safe Long Island, fellow traffic safety advocates, community members, elected officials, physicians, and hospital leadership and staff gathered at Good Samaritan University Hospital on Thursday, August 31 to rally and bring awareness to the silent epidemic of traffic injury and fatality on Long Island roadways.


Pictured, left to right: Richard Bagdonas, MD, FACS, Trauma, Acute Care Surgeon, Critical Intensivist, Good Samaritan University Hospital; Ira Dunne, Founder & President, The Social Brain; Cynthia Brown, Executive Director, NYCTS; ADA Maureen McCormick, Special Assistant for Legislative Initiatives, Suffolk County District Attorney's Office; Diana Alati, Advocate, Families For Safe Streets / Long Island Families for Safe Streets; Ruth Hennessey, President, Good Samaritan University Hospital


According to CBS News, more than 30 traffic fatalities were recorded on Long Island in August alone, and there were quite a number of crashes in September, too. Good Samaritan University Hospital— the only Level I Trauma Center for adults on the south shore of Long Island— treated 61 pedestrians struck on our shared roadways from January to June of 2023 alone, and treated 454 struck pedestrians from 2019 to 2022. This data was released for the first time at the rally. View the full infographic of data pertaining to vulnerable road users treated at Good Samaritan here.


Additional data from the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Nassau and Suffolk County Crash Hubs also painted a picture of the state of pedestrian and cyclist safety in the Town of Islip and on Long Island as a whole. During October 2021 through September 2022, 70,279 total crashes occurred throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Review the full infographic of NYSSA data here.


Deacon Richard Becker delivered an opening blessing before Ruth E. Hennessey, President of Good Samaritan University Hospital welcomed attendees to the event. Janine Logan—Vice President of Communications & Population Health for the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council and Director of the Council’s Long Island Health Collaborative—delivered opening remarks that touched on the reality of traffic fatality as a public health issue, as well as the intersection of public health and road user safety, especially here on Long Island.


Cynthia Brown, Executive Director of the New York Coalition for Transportation Safety dove deeper into the issue at hand, citing the seemingly endless number of pedestrians and cyclists injured and often killed on the roads. She acknowledged this multi-faceted problem requires a multi-faceted approach. She explained how the “Three Es” of New York State’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP)—education, engineering, and enforcement— must all work in conjunction to mitigate the problem.


There’s more to it than that, though—Brown also acknowledged the role of road user behavior. While behavior change is extremely difficult to achieve among large populations, it is possible—take the evolution of drivers’ acceptance of seat belts and the eventual law requiring their use, for example. Brown, a long-time advocate for safety on our roads, played an integral role in the passing and acceptance of the seatbelt law in New York.


Good Samaritan University Hospital’s Richard Bagdonas, MD, FACS, Trauma, Acute Care Surgeon, Critical Care Intensivist gave a physician’s perspective, discussing the types and sheer volume of struck pedestrians and cyclists treated in the hospital’s ER.


Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick, Special Assistant for Legislative Initiatives within the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office spoke about the legislative efforts happening behind the scenes to address the issue, specifically to address the volume of impaired drivers on Long Island roadways. McCormick zeroed in on a specific piece of legislation spearheaded by District Attorney Ray Tierney, the Deadly Driving Bill pending this year as s.3135/a.174. Law enforcement cannot arrest a driver who is obviously impaired without being able to name the drug impairing the driver, and the bill aims to change this. Anyone can sign the online petition. Learn more about drugged driving and the Deadly Driving Bill here.


Diana Alati, a Families for Safe Streets advocate and mother, shared her experience with traffic fatality at the rally. Alati tragically lost her 13-year-old son Andrew when he was struck by a teen driver on Hempstead Turnpike in 2019. Diana has channeled her grief into advocacy to prevent others from losing their loved ones to traffic fatality. Learn about the Andrew Alati foundation here.


Ira Dunne, founder of The Social Brain spoke on behalf of his client Jennifer Wendal. In 2018, Jennifer’s life was changed in an instant when she was struck by an SUV in Ronkonkoma. Jennifer now lives with quadriplegia and communicates using a series of eye movements and blinking. Her message to Dunne to share at the rally: “Be safe, drive slow, pay attention. I don’t like being this way.”


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