I-Team: Warning Signs Are Missing on Deadly Long Island Highway

What to Know

  • The Sunrise Highway on Long Island has seen 21 wrong-way incidents since 2010
  • There are 33 exits that are missing "Wrong Way" and "Do Not Enter" signs as mandated by the state DOT
  • DOT says it's investigating and expects to have answers this week

Dozens of traffic warning signs are missing on a Long Island highway with a deadly history of wrong-way crashes.

A News 4 New York investigation found 33 exits on the Sunrise Highway in Suffolk County do not have the “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter" signs mandated by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). Exit ramps are the way most wrong-way drivers enter a highway.

According to NYSDOT, “the current standard on Long Island expressways is to have four Wrong Way signs combined with four Do Not Enter signs on exit ramps.”

But in the stretch of highway from Babylon to Center Moriches surveyed by News 4 New York, 14 exit ramps had only one or two small “Wrong Way” signs – and 10 exit ramps had no warning signage at all. Only five ramps met the state standard.

“If you’re not familiar with the area and the lack of signage, I could see where someone could make a mistake,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, who points to the Sunrise Highway as one of Long Island’s danger zones for wrong-way driving.

In 2016, three people were killed in two wrong-way crashes on the highway, including one person killed by an off-duty Suffolk County police officer who was allegedly drunk behind the wheel. Those crashes were among 21 wrong-way incidents on the Sunrise Highway since 2010, according to a News 4 review of police and media reports.

In 2010, NYSDOT was so concerned about wrong-way driving, it did a study of signage at 450 exit ramps on Long Island. NYSDOT was unable to provide News 4 New York with the results of that study, but it was cited in a 2012 National Traffic Safety Board Report. “Exit ramp signs in some locations are not sized and placed in compliance with the current [federal guidelines],” the NTSB said.

NYSDOT did tell News 4 New York that the study – along with the latest research on wrong-way crashes – was the basis for the current standard of four Wrong Way and four Do Not Enter signs on exit ramps.

“These “hi-lo” signs consists of a sign post that has one sign at regular height, with an additional sign below it. Many wrong-way drivers are alcohol-impaired, and studies have shown that drunk drivers tend to focus lower to the ground and may be more likely to see a sign that is at a lower height than standard road signs,” the department said in a statement, noting that it’s “in the process of upgrading signage at exit ramps.”

News 4 New York checked for the “hi-lo” signs at 25 exit ramps on the Long Island Expressway, Northern State Parkway, Southern State Parkway and Sagtikos Parkway. Every exit had the signs.

So why are so many missing on the Sunrise Highway? NYSDOT told News 4 New York it’s investigating – and expects to have answers this week.

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