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Deadly driving on Long Island roads demands action - Newsday Opinion Editorial

Deadly driving on Long Island roads demands action

The scene of the fatal crash on the Southern State Parkway that killed Richard Riggs of Holbrook. Credit: Howard Simmons

By The Editorial Board March 10, 2022 6:57 PM - Newsday

By racing in traffic, speeding through tight spaces between moving cars, tailgating, weaving, and forcing close calls just for fun, the most reckless of motorists on Long Island roads intentionally menace the rest of us, it seems, nearly every day.

This lethal hazard is getting old.

In the extreme games of these terror-mongers on wheels, other drivers and their vehicles are just props and hurdles. In some of the video clips proudly posted online, their hyena whoops are audible.

Either due to insufficient urgency, or the lack of the right plan, authorities have made slow if any progress toward deterring or punishing this type of disaster.

Please remember Richard Riggs, 75, of Holbrook, who died nearly eight months ago in a fatal collision induced by a race between a stolen Range Rover and a Jeep that sped in and out of traffic lanes on the Southern State Parkway. An investigation by the Suffolk district attorney’s office reportedly remains active. Arrests have yet to be made.

Some justice in this case would at least set a public example. But police cannot be posted every quarter-mile day and night — which gives the miscreants an edge — so technology and effective surveillance will be key to an overdue crackdown.

State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) has been collaborating with state police officials in an effort to generate progress. They've discussed purchasing and using technology, both stationary and mobile, that can record license plates of these highway psychos, identify them, and allow them to be nabbed.

Of course — and this is not a new problem, either — those dodging all manner of vehicle laws make use of thin plastic transparent license plate covers meant to sabotage visibility by electronic devices. That illegal practice requires a new crackdown of its own and harsh fines and penalties, well beyond what's now imposed, which should help fund maintaining the equipment.

Brooks looks to access state grant money that can essentially create a pilot program for reading plates as needed. He should pursue that quickly, and a wider focus will still be needed from state and local governments.

Video cameras for years have been posted on many roads to spot accidents, locate snarls and project travel times. But the legislative agreement authorizing the cameras barred recordings for use in these probes.

Last summer, after the horrific death of Riggs, and of five other people in Quogue in a high-speed head-on collision, lawmakers asked the state Department of Transportation to change that rule and keep such footage. But on Thursday, a spokesman was still saying: "NYSDOT will review any proposed legislation on the matter."

On that front, the needle hasn't moved since last summer. As Long Island's law enforcement challenges go, this demands way more priority. Innocent lives are at stake.

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