Danger on the Roads

These are the times that try drivers’ souls. July on the South Fork brings far too many vehicles onto roads not configured to handle so much traffic, and ordinary, minor transgressions can end in white-knuckle rage — or at least unreasonable delays.

That guy in the pool service van texting with his phone on Route 114 is a dangerous hazard. The garbage truck stopped on narrow Union Street in Sag Harbor causes long backups and confusion as a mom in a black Escalade unwisely decides to make a left and is stuck perpendicular to the stream of steamed oncoming motorists. Well-meaning and trying to be courteous, drivers gesture for others to make a turn, confusing motorists behind them and creating new potential dangers. Packs of bicyclists in shiny clothing apparently revel in refusing to ride single file. People try to make left turns —a bad idea until the first frost, in our opinion.

On village streets and elsewhere, construction vehicles and landscapers’ trailers are left in the travel lane, their drivers loath to tear up a client’s grass; police, busy with other things, necessarily look the other way. Crosswalks and jaywalkers create their own sorts of problems. On Main Street in East Hampton the four lanes that a pedestrian must traverse to get from one side of the roadway to the other constantly give rise to near-misses. Well-meaning drivers stop suddenly for jaywalkers going from the movie theater side toward Starbucks, gesturing those on foot blithely into harm’s way. Tips for those in crosswalks: Never assume that a vehicle will stop for you, make eye contact with its driver, and keep in mind that in an accident you will be the loser. And then there is the “courtesy left,” in which one driver stops improperly to let a turning vehicle across the lane into opposite traffic, all very polite, of course, but yielding confusion among other drivers — and in a few recent cases, crashes. It is all very routine and maybe annoying. Then, tragedy strikes. 

A Springs resident, Christian Bermeo, 28, was killed on Sunday afternoon when a car turned across his lane, sending him through the air and into another, oncoming, car. Mr. Bermeo left behind a son and girlfriend. The driver of the car that he struck, a 79-year-old woman, left the scene of the accident; police declined to charge her, as it appeared to them that she was confused after her car was spun around by the impact and its airbags deployed. Rumors circulated fast in the aftermath of the crash, and it is possible that we might never know what caused it. 

All in all, it is beyond hectic on the highways and byways at this time of year. Our advice is to slow down, stay away from the horn, and try not to let it all get to you. Most important, always remember that someone’s life — even your own — might be in your hands as you place them on the wheel and put your car in gear.