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Jul 15, 2014 5:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Signs Along Flanders Road Warn About Dangers Of Distracted Driving

Jul 16, 2014 10:49 AM

When her sister was killed in a head-on collision on Flanders Road last winter, Susan Tocci did not believe the cause was simply a bump in the road.

“I drive this road every day,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t just that pothole, because I’ve hit that pothole.”

Her sister, Barbara Tocci of Hampton Bays, died in January when a Public Service Electric and Gas company vehicle crossed the double yellow line and struck her vehicle head-on. State Police, who investigated the accident that claimed the life of the 47-year-old grandmother, have not released an official determination regarding the cause of the accident. However, the driver of the PSEG truck, Michael Pepe of Bayport, told police at the time that he lost control of his vehicle after hitting a considerable pothole, which propelled him into oncoming traffic. State highway crews were observed repairing the road just days after the crash.

But Ms. Tocci, who has viewed a copy of the accident report, pointed out that the document also notes that Mr. Pepe had a hand-held cellphone in his possession and that it could have been a contributing factor in the accident. In addition to “defective pavement,” the report also notes that Mr. Pepe’s “use of a hand-held device is an apparent contributing factor” to the fatal crash.

Last week, Susan Tocci decided that she could not wait any longer for an official police determination. She installed two large signs along Flanders Road, near where her sister died, to warn drivers not to text and drive, or get behind the steering wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“This has been so hard on my family,” she said, noting that a few months later, her family lost another relative in another car accident in California. In that accident, Susan Tocci’s son’s fiancée, Hayley Riggins, was killed after authorities said she was hit by a drunk driver. She was taken off life support in April.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Ms. Tocci said.

One of the newly installed signs features Barbara Tocci’s photo and reads, “Save a Life: Do Not Text & Drive. Barbara Tocci 1966-2014.” The other, with a photo of her granddaughter, Kadence, and Ms. Riggins, reads, “Kadence will grow up without her mom. Do not drive under the influence. Hayley Riggins 1987-2014.”

Ms. Tocci said she wanted to post the signs around the Fourth of July because of the influx in traffic along Flanders Road. She added that if her signs stop one person from texting and driving then she has accomplished her goal.

“I want people to know,” she said. “I want to make a difference. I want people to stop before someone else gets hurt.”

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I'm trying my hardest not to say what everyone is thinking right now..... trying really hard.
By Elliver (20), southampton on Jul 19, 14 11:03 AM
The Town of Southampton has had an extremely strong (anti) billboard law for fifty years. Blight comes with all types of messages. Why is this permitted? Take them down. Now!
Jul 19, 14 12:42 PM appended by VOS
Actually, it has only been 42 years:On May 2, 1972, the Town of Southampton adopted Building Ordinance No. 26, which prohibited the erection of all non-accessory billboards (§ 3-50-60.70) in all districts throughout the town. The ordinance further provided for the removal of all nonconforming billboards on or before June 1, 1975 (§ 3-110-70.03). However, owners of nonconforming billboards were given the opportunity to apply for an extension of the amortization period prescribed by the ordinance (§ 3-110-70.04). Exception was also made for the Town of Southampton to establish public information centers where business signs could be located (§ 3-50-60.07). This is not a discussion of the merits of the message on these signs.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 19, 14 12:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
I don't agree with the billboard,s but maybe give her a break. Her sister died and she is isn pain. Just take them down and move on. If the report shows that he was texting, then throw the book at him, hard.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jul 19, 14 8:18 PM
This was an unfortunate accident and a resident lost her life, to bring politics into this is ubsurd and insulting to the family as they still grieve.

My heart felt condolences as this family continues to stubble with this loss.
By Brad (28), Northampton on Jul 22, 14 11:40 AM
My apologies it should read struggles with this loss,
By Brad (28), Northampton on Jul 22, 14 11:43 AM
I don't think it is political, it is the law. It isn't a certain party's law, it is the law.

Does anyone actually think that a large billboard is going to stop people from texting? Looks like just another distraction.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 25, 14 9:44 AM
No, it isn't the law. Read the law, and read the court decision that upheld it. It says nothing on non-commercial signs on private property, which this is.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 14 2:59 PM