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Wrong Way Tragedy: Highway Signs Two Years Later

This story is the last in a series called Wrong Way Tragedy, about the lasting impacts of the fatal drunken driving accident that claimed eight lives on the Taconic State Parkway on July 26, 2009. Other stories in series included Shock, Mystery Still Linger , First Responders Look Back , Tougher DWI Laws Follow and Supporting the First Responders .

PELHAM, N.Y. – Westchester County still echoes with memories of Diane Schuler's driving the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway two years ago. A fatal wrong way accident on I-95 in New Rochelle on Sunday was the most recent reminder.

Much discussion about highway signage has occurred in the two years since eight people died because of the crash. Just this week, Daniel Schuler, the husband of the woman who drove drunk and high the wrong way on the parkway with a van full of children, sued the state, citing poor signage and road construction as causes of the accident.

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner has concerns about drivers on the Saw Mill River Parkway. He said that New York State should add more warning signs and indicators to the county's highways.

"I think that the state should put some ridges, some sort of additional safety measures that should reduce the chances of people driving the wrong way," Feiner said.

Feiner forwarded a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation earlier this week from a town employee who suggested that the state place spikes onto highway access roads. Warning signs would warn the driver that the spikes would puncture his or her tires if he or she drove the wrong way.

The supervisor said that more signs would reduce the confusion that causes some wrong way accidents.

"There's a number of places where I've seen people go the wrong way," Feiner said. "If they're not familiar with the road, sometimes it's a little confusing."

But not all town officials think that signage is the main problem. Kieran O'Leary, spokesman for the Westchester County Department of Public Safety, said that drugs and alcohol cause more wrong way accidents.

"In our experience, when people are driving the wrong way on the parkway, they are almost always drunk or high on drugs," O'Leary said. "The signage isn't the issue. It's the impairment of the driver."

O'Leary said that county officials notify the state if a highway warning sign has been knocked down or if trees or leaves have grown and blocked the sign. But he maintained that impaired driving is the main issue.

"The real problem isn't signage," O'Leary said. "It's that people make the poor decision to try to drive a motor vehicle after drinking or doing drugs."

Do you think highway signs in Westchester County are adequate, or can the state do more to keep drivers safe? Comment below, on Facebook or Twitter.

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