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Nassau pedestrian-related accidents increased by 16% from 2022 to 2023

Updated: 7 days ago

Advocates are fighting for safer, more walkable roads for Long Island

Guest blog by Gabrielle Yanovitz, originally published in the Long Island Advocate


Jay Learson, a Hofstra University student, was skateboarding across California Avenue in Uniondale after class on an October afternoon in 2021. Isabella Procida was crossing Main Street in Farmingdale on her way home after a rehearsal in mid-August 2019. Neither of them were prepared for the alarming events that would ensue. Before they knew it, their hearts would skip a beat as they would become another pedestrian to be hit by a vehicle. 


“No one really prepares you for what to do in a situation like that,” said Procida, who is now a 20-year-old student at SUNY Old Westbury. “I was pretty scared…I didn’t know how to handle myself.” She was 15 at the time of the accident, and has never been able to find the driver that hit her.


Isabella Procida was hit at this intersection on Main Street in Farmingdale in August of 2019. The collision was a hit and run, and took place in broad daylight. (Photo: Gabrielle Yanovitz)


Luckily neither Learson nor Procida suffered any major injuries from their accidents, minus a few scrapes and bruises. However, their stories display a cautionary tale told far too often, and reflect a number of pedestrian-related accidents and fatalities on Long Island that have been on the rise for the last several years. 


In Nassau County alone, there were 485 pedestrian related accidents in 2023, with 17 of those being fatal accidents, according to Nassau County Police Department data. This is a 16% increase in accidents from 2022, which saw 418 pedestrian related accidents, including 15 fatal incidents. 


Across Long Island, there’s been an uptick in pedestrian deaths over the last five years, with more than 55 pedestrians killed per year since 2019. 


*2023 is preliminary data

Advocates for pedestrian safety say that an increase of pedestrians overall during the height of COVID-19 made for higher numbers in accidents and casualties, in addition to fewer cars on the road at the time driving at higher speeds. (Data Source: Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research) 



Eric Alexander, the director of Vision Long Island, named state and county roads to be among the most dangerous on the Island. This includes roads such as Route 24 Hempstead Turnpike, Route 25 Jericho Turnpike, Route 27 Sunrise Highway, and Merrick Road, among others. 


Alexander points to speed as “the number one culprit” for severity of crashes when it comes to pedestrians. 


“We have dangerously designed roads, and pedestrians and bicyclists are seen as an afterthought,” he said. “They’re designed by folks who have historically prioritized automobile speed over pedestrian and bicycle safety.”


He names two primary solutions to solving this issue — either increasing the use of speed cameras and ticketing as means to enforce the speed limits, or designing the roads differently to prevent speeding. He prefers the latter as the most effective method, citing them as “traffic calming solutions.” 


Alexander listed several features that can be implemented on roads to make them safer for pedestrians, including lane narrowing, medians, wide and well-lit crosswalks, protected sidewalks, bulb outs, and functioning countdown timers. 


“All of these things are pretty cheap…some of this stuff is just paint,” he said. “There’s no reason why these things can’t be employed.” 


Dozens of communities and villages across Long Island have put traffic calming solutions into effect on their local roads. Christopher Gosley, a legislative assistant for Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages of District 22, shared in an interview that their team has made it a priority to improve conditions of roads so that they are more walkable. He referenced efforts the district has made to reinforce crosswalks on Central Ave. in Valley Stream, where the district office is located. 


Gosley also noted that the Village of Valley Stream is actively working to lower the local speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph. This process could be more efficient as echoes of the recent passing of Sammy’s Law may reach Long Island. 


The ongoing challenge, however, is undertaking projects on the county and state roads that are becoming more and more pedestrian dense. These roads are not only the most dangerous, but have proven to be the most difficult to change.


“The larger the government entity that manages the road, the worse the road is,” said Alexander, as he mentioned the disconnect from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the public of Long Island. 


Although he praised the NYSDOT for actively putting countdown timers and fresh coats of crosswalk paint on state roads, implementing projects like lane narrowing seem to be a more far-fetched desire. 


Other organizations across Long Island propose alternative solutions to improving pedestrian safety that do not involve the redesigning of roads. The New York Coalition for Transportation Safety (NYCTS), a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Westbury, focuses on education and outreach initiatives to encourage pedestrian safety. 


“We go into schools, senior centers, churches…trying to get the message out and teach people to be visible, to be careful, and to stop walking in front of traffic or behind cars,” said Cynthia Brown, director of the NYCTS.

Both Alexander and Brown referenced Route 24, or Hempstead Turnpike, as one of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians on Long Island. Brown, calling it the “road of death”, said that there are a greater number of people without vehicles in the Village of Hempstead, forced to walk along and across the Turnpike with cars driving in some areas at speeds up to 55 mph. 


In 2023, there were 48 pedestrian traffic incidents on Hempstead Turnpike alone, according to data from the Nassau County Police Department Traffic Safety Unit. 


Brown additionally described the harsh conditions for pedestrians in the Village of Hempstead as a whole, citing where Glen Cove Road transitions into Clinton Road as one travels south.


“You go from Garden City that has all the bells and whistles and fancy stop signs, to a low income area with nothing,” she said. 


Brown also named electric scooters to be a growing problem contributing to pedestrian related traffic incidents in western Long Island. “There are virtually no laws governing their operation,” she said. “There's nothing that says you have to wear a helmet…they don’t have to be registered.”


Jay Learson was hit while on his skateboard crossing this intersection in Uniondale in 2019. The stop sign is often sped through by drivers, although foot traffic is quite heavy. (Photo: Gabrielle Yanovitz)


Although Jay Learson, a now senior at Hofstra, wasn’t riding an electric scooter when he was struck, being on wheels is now something he avoids when crossing the street. 


“I definitely don’t skateboard across the street anymore because I get too nervous about getting hit…I’m extra cautious,” he said. 


As for Isabella Procida, she admits to being extra careful as a pedestrian after her accident, but still looks at Main Street as an area of concern after all these years. 


“Especially with the nightlife on Main Street and the amount of bars, it’s not a safe place for pedestrians at any time of day,” she said. 


Both Alexander and Brown have their own suggestions for making Long Island a more walkable place overall. 


“People need to advocate better for these changes, whether it’s engineering or enforcement," said Brown. She mentioned the frequent complaints she receives from residents about the lack of enforcement by local police for drivers. 


“It’s not something you just throw your arms up and say ‘it is what it is’,” said Alexander. “These are matters that can be taken into your own hands, to improve the conditions.”


Alexander believes that real changes can be made when the public, local officials, and engineers join together, as several projects are in the works around Nassau County. He mentioned recent rulings made by Legislator Siela Bynoe of Nassau’s District 2 to move $69 million in funds toward pedestrian safety initiatives.


“Long Island is a hyperlocal place, so when local people stand up and start saying stuff, elected officials will react,” he said. “Community power is a real thing.” 



 

About Gabrielle Yanovitz


Gabrielle is a third-year Journalism student at Hofstra University. In addition to writing for The Advocate, She can also be heard hosting “The Morning Wake Up Call” on 88.7 FM WRHU.


Connect with Gabrielle on LinkedIn here.


 

About Walk Safe Long Island (WSLI)


WSLI is a pedestrian and cyclist safety campaign that aims to teach Long Islanders about walking and biking safely through law-based education. WSLI is produced for the New York Coalition for Transportation Safety by the Long Island Health Collaborative, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.


New York State is taking numerous measures to tackle the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety, all of which culminate in the New York State Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP). The plan emphasizes making streets safer by implementing the “Three Es—” engineering, enforcement, and education. Walk Safe Long Island is part of the third “E,” education.


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