Clarkstown Police Officer Bill Berrigan has heard just about every excuse in the book from drivers he’s stopped for speeding over the past 15 years.
What’s the most common one: “Officer, I really have to go to the bathroom.”
“People also say a lot that they’re late for work,” said Berrigan, a member of Clarkstown’s traffic enforcement unit. “But a lot of people are honest about it.”
He explains that many speeding drivers admit they just didn’t pay attention to the local speed limit. In Clarkstown, police and town officials say that the issue of drivers going too fast or driving recklessly has grown to such a proportion that it’s the most common complaint they receive from members of the community on a daily basis.
“If I get 10 calls in the office, seven of them are about speeding in the Town of Clarkstown,” said Lt. Bob Donaldson, who oversees the police department’s special operations units.
In response to concerns expressed by community members throughout the town, Clarkstown on Thursday announced the start of a crackdown on speeders — “Operation Slow Down” — which is targeting five problem areas in the town.
“This is not an effort to ‘catch you,’” said Clarkstown town Supervisor Alex Gromack. “It’s an effort to get you to slow down. It’s our goal to bring down the speeds in Clarkstown.”
Gromack said the town is using a $15,000 state grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission to expand traffic enforcement efforts. Gromack and police Captain Michael Sullivan, who is slated to soon become the town’s next police chief, said they don’t want anything about the effort to be a secret: They’re telling the public exactly where the speeding crackdown will take place.
The targeted roads are:
- Kings Highway in Valley Cottage
- Townline Road in Nanuet
- Laurel Road in New City
- North Broadway in Upper Nyack
- New Clarkstown Road in the Clarkstown portion of Spring Valley
“We want people to know we’re going to be there,” said Sullivan. “What we really want is for them to slow down.”
Sullivan said the five roads selected have been targeted based on complaints from the public and suggestions by town police officers.
Quality of Life
In addition to cracking down on speeding, Sullivan said members of the traffic unit will also be strictly enforcing laws against aggressive driving and drivers talking on cell phones or texting while they are behind the wheel. These distractions, Sullivan said, are often to blame for motorists failing to pay attention to their speed or local speed limits.
As part of the special enforcement effort, police will be using electronic sign boards to alert motorists that the roads are part of Operation Slow Down.
“We want to increase safety and the quality of life in the town,” Sullivan said.
The effort calls for stepping up enforcement on the selected roads for a month, and then moving on to another set of roads that are among the top 25 roadways considered as the most notorious for speeders in Clarkstown.
On that list are:
- Strawtown Road in New City and West Nyack
- Burda Avenue, New City
- Little Tor Road, New City
- Congers Road, New City
- Old Route 304, New City
- Phillips Hill Road, New City
- Ridge Road, New City
- Third Street, New City
- Old Haverstraw Road, Congers
- Germonds Road, West Nyack
- McCarthy Way, West Nyack
- Parrot Road, West Nyack
- Old Mill Road, West Nyack
- Prospect Street, Nanuet
- Rose Road, Nanuet
- Highview Avenue, Nanuet
- Grandview Avenue, Nanuet
- Bardonia Road, Bardonia
- Midland Avenue, Upper Nyack
Gromack said the special enforcement efforts come as an addition to existing patrols on the town’s major roads — Route 303, Route 304 and Route 59 — and neighborhood streets.
Additionally, Gromack said the town is continuing its “traffic calming” program led by Highways Superintendent Wayne Ballard. In that effort, the town looks at places where action is needed to slow down local traffic.
The traffic calming program has led to the installation of special radar-equipped speed warning signs such as the ones on Third Street in New City and Old Mountain Road in Upper Nyack, signs and even speed bumps such as the ones installed in 2010 in the Camelot development in New City.
Laurel Plains Speedway
New City resident Mary Maloney, who is co-president of the Laurel Plains Elementary School in New City is hoping the townwide crackdown on speeding and reckless driving will make neighborhoods like hers safer.
Maloney said her street, Tavo Lane, is just off Laurel Road and is a popular route into the maze of local streets that leads to Laurel Plains Elementary. She said speeding is such a problem in the neighborhood that her children have nicknamed it the “Laurel Plains Speedway” and can frequently be seen waiving and shouting to drivers to slow down as they are outside playing.
“The side streets will benefit from this as well,” Maloney said of Operation Slow Down.
Clarkstown Councilman Frank Borelli of New City said he and fellow Town Board members constantly hear complaints about speeding throughout the town as they attend community and school events, or meet with local senior citizens.
While Clarkstown police officers issue about 500 vehicle and traffic tickets a month, Councilwoman Shirley Lasker of Upper Nyack said the perception in the community is that speeding and reckless driving are increasing as a problem in the town.
“This initiative will help residents and those who travel through Clarkstown become more aware of the speed limits throughout our neighborhoods,” said Lasker. “Our goal is to keep our seniors, families and children safe by encouraging safe and cautious driving.”
Councilman George Hoehmann said he supports Operation Slow Down as an educational program that he hopes will convince town residents to ease up on the gas pedal.
Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner of New City says that speeding has become so routine for many drivers that they even ignore hazardous conditions created by this winter’s snow and ice storms.
“People need to be made aware of the safety concerns and just how fast they really are going,” said Hausner.