An initiative targeting vehicles for hire operating in the Town of East Hampton officially began this weekend, as just one of the steps town officials are taking to make the roads safer during a year that has already been inundated with fatal accidents.
In a joint effort, town police and code enforcement have already ramped up efforts this summer to ensure that taxi cabs, limousines, and party buses are operating within the parameters of state and town law.
Police Chief Ed Ecker said his department issued 28 tickets this weekend to taxi drivers violating New York State Vehicle & Traffic law, such as speeding, running stop signs and blocking traffic. Meanwhile, town code enforcement officers issued 12 summonses relating to the Town Code's licensing and posting requirements, according to Patrick Gunn, an assistant town attorney and public safety division administrator.
Just six months into 2012, there have already been four traffic-related fatalities — a higher figure than most recent years (In 2011 and 2007, there was one; none were recorded in 2009; and in 2010 there were a total of four for the year).
Ecker said the taxi cab initiative is not directly related to the fatal crash last month, in which as he walked with three others along Old Stone Highway in Amagansett. No charges have been filed in that case.
"I've been thinking about it, actually, for a while," the chief said, adding that the targeted enforcement actually began in the spring, around St. Patrick's Day, when an increased amount of out-of-town cab companies went to work in Montauk. "There were more cabs from out of town than we've ever seen before," he said.
Cabs, limos and party buses often cause congestion in already high-volume areas, particularly near Montauk hot-spots, Ecker said. "I've been out nights on the weekends and seen some of the problems happening. The traffic is flowing along fine, until a cab or a limo stops to pick people up," he said.
"We also looking for compliance; that they are operating with proper licenses and proper paperwork," Ecker said.
To drive a cab in New York State, motorists need a Class E license. The Town of East Hampton also requires a $150 vehicle license for a car used for transportation for hire. To receive such a license, cabbies must submit copies of the car's title, a state vehicle registration, state inspection certificate and proof of insurance.
"We’ve written more cabs this year than we’ve ever written," Ecker said, adding that the initiative will continue throughout the summer.
On Monday, police, along with the East Hampton Town Chiefs' Association made a public plea to ask pedestrians and drivers to use caution on the busy summer roads. The association is comprised of the six fire departments that serve the township.
The most recent fatal accident occurred on July 4, when a woman died in a two-vehicle crash in Montauk.
The total number of accidents so far is only about 12 more than this time last year, Ecker said. His department is involved in other areas of selective enforcement on the roads, such as the Suffolk County district attorney's DWI Task Force, which . Only one of the fatal accidents in 2012 was alcohol related — a single-motorcycle crash in Springs this spring — Ecker said.
"It is very important that while driving, walking or riding a bike that everyone follow simple 'Rules of the Road' this summer," a statement from police and the fire chiefs' association said. It included reminders to the public:
- Walk on the sidewalk, when available, and if none is available to walk against traffic.
- Bicyclists should ride with traffic in single file, staying on the shoulder.
- Bicyclists should abide by traffic control devices.
- Drivers should pull over for emergency vehicles