Crossing the street in Port Jefferson Village may soon be a ticket-able offense.
During a village board meeting Aug. 7, a public hearing was held to discuss amending the village code to include language prohibiting jaywalking on Port Jeff streets.
“No person shall, at street intersections where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals or by police or public safety officers, cross the street against a red, ‘stop’ or ‘don’t walk’ sign or signal, nor cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk, nor disobey the lawful command of a police or public safety officer,” the proposed addition to the code said.
Offenders would be written a summons to appear in village court, and penalties for violating the code would be assessed at the discretion of the court based on circumstances. Repeat offenders or offenders whose violation results in a car crash would be given harsher fines, with a maximum possible fine of $2,000.
Initially the code change was slated to be for the entirety of Port Jeff Village, but the proposed language in the code inspired questions from members of the public and the board about crossing streets like East Broadway and Highlands Boulevard, which have devices that qualify as “traffic control signals” but no crosswalks for miles. The proposed code change was amended during the hearing to limit the jaywalking restriction to commercial districts encompassing Main Street and East Main Street, and near John T. Mather Memorial Hospital where crosswalks already exist. Jaywalking restrictions will not be enforced on residential streets if the code change is passed by the board.
“Throughout the village there’s a 30-mile-per-hour speed limit,” village Code Enforcement Chief Wally Tomaszewski said during the hearing. “On Main Street there are hundreds of people a day that cross outside of the crosswalks. We have so many accidents. We have so many people that are hit by cars, people pushing off of cars, and people actually jump out in front of cars. We have children in cars that the people jam on the brakes and the kids go flying up against the dashboard and the windshield.”
Trustee and Deputy Mayor Larry LaPointe was among those in favor of the law applying to only commercial areas. Trustee Bruce Miller was against the change altogether.
“I guess I’m just a bit of a libertarian, more free range than chasing people because they didn’t cross at a crosswalk or they didn’t wait for a signal, or maybe there’s nothing to wait for,” he said. “I’m not too enthusiastic about jaywalking enforcement.”
Village Mayor Margot Garant spoke in favor of the proposal.
“I see people darting across the street all of the time,” she said. “At night they’re darting from Schaffer’s to run across the street — it’s so dangerous.”
Garant added she had previously asked the New York State Department of Transportation for a crosswalk to be added in front of Village Hall, and she planned to speak to State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) about the matter again. She also assured concerned residents that proper signage would be installed warning pedestrians about the crackdown on jaywalking.