Increased intersection accidents but decreased injuries reported
Legislators criticized the recent review of the county’s Red Light Camera program amid the revelation that noninjurious accidents at intersections increased significantly.
There was a 15-percent increase in accidents in Suffolk from 2017 to 2018. Accidents with injury decreased by 7 percent, though. And accidents at intersections with red-light cameras increased by almost 30 percent since last year.
“We know [the program] is saving lives, but it is causing other problems,” said Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mt. Sinai), whose district includes two of the county’s busiest roads, Route 25 and Route 25A.
Anker said L.K. McLean Associates, the Brookhaven-based civil engineering firm that conducted the review and presented such at Monday’s public hearing, was given three responsibilities in taking on this study: pinning down a cause for the increase in accidents at intersections, examining the efficacy of the program as a whole, and drafting a detailed consideration of its benefits and drawbacks.
“For $250,000, I expect to have what I asked for, and I am extremely disappointed by the outcome,” Anker said.
LKMA’s review concluded that there is no correlation between fatal accidents at intersections and the RLC program, citing statistical insignificance, since the amount of fatal accidents compared to all accidents is such a small fraction.
Vincent Corrado, representing the firm alongside CEO and president Raymond DiBiase, pointed out that the numbers presented in the report included all accidents that occurred within 200 feet of the absolute center of the intersection. Corrado said that Department of Public Works measures only 30 feet from the center of an intersection, which does not cover the majority of most multilane intersections, including many of the 100 Suffolk intersections that feature a red-light camera.
He also made note that accidents occurring in parking lots abutting the intersection, which happen to fall within the 200-foot parameter, were omitted from the study, as those accidents have no relevance to red-light cameras.
Anker and DiBiase conversed about distracted driving and its potential for causation. DiBiase argued that statistics for distracted driving do not have a solid standing and are considered part of a gray area and, therefore, could not be considered in the review. He explained that a distracted driver involved in an accident will not always admit such, and the only other way to cite distracted driving in an incident requires a witness.
Alongside the legislative committee, Greg Fischer, who is running for county executive in November, said that the presentation and review of the project was lacking.
“There is a lot off the page that we are not considering,” said Fischer, who has a background in operations management and statistical analysis. In addition to mentioning speed limit passing through a given intersection and time of day, he highlighted the conditions of yellow lights, which he said is being overlooked as a significant factor. He also mentioned green-light delay as a suggestion to consider.
“When you have numbers almost doubling, there is something else going on,” Fischer said, referring to the 77-percent increase in rear-end collisions from 2017 to 2018.
Real estate broker Hector Gavilla, who is running for election to the Legislature in the 16th District, cited a discrepancy of intersection-accident information between 2007 and 2009 in the review presented by LKMA. Information regarding fatal accidents within the time frame were presented (a total of 17 over a three-year period), however.
Gavilla also expressed that reviewing accident reports may skew the actuality of injury statistics.
“If you do not report it at the scene, you may have an injury the next day,” said Gavilla, who shared that he endured a looming back injury from a rear-end accident in which he did not cite pain immediately after the fact. “Your adrenaline is pumping.”
Gavilla also discussed the significant increase in property damage as well as taking concern to classifications of severity of accidents, considering that these classifications (fatal, injurious and property damage) are weighted differently in analysis.
“Every accident is a serious accident,” he said.