Speeding tickets issued by University Police in 2014 increased by 290 percent compared to 2013, according to Chief of Police Robert J. Lenahan and the Office of the Vice President of Administration. The increase to 147 tickets coincided with last spring’s reduction of the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph along Nicolls Road between South Entrance and Route 25A.
“The University Police Department was highly focused on speed enforcement last year,” Lenahan, who is also the assistant vice president of Campus Safety, said in an email on Monday, emphasizing that UPD maintains a wide range of focuses and will “remain committed to enforcing life, safety, [and] traffic violations.” He noted that University Police do not have ticket quotas or production goals—the former is illegal in New York State.
Lenahan also confirmed the 290 percent increase between 2013 and 2014. The numbers had been initially reported as 150 tickets and a 297 percent increase in the minutes of a March 2 University Senate meeting.
Stony Brook University announced the speed limit change on April 29, 2014 as the result of the combined effort of Stony Brook administration, UPD and Suffolk County officials, according to initial reports by The Statesman.
“Stony Brook University requested a review of the 55 MPH speed limit based on a history of vehicle accidents,” Lenahan wrote on Monday. In the email and in an interview with The Statesman last May, Lenahan cited the multiple fatalities that had occurred along Nicolls Road in recent years involving both pedestrians and motorists.
In 2011, Seong Hoon Baek, 21, a Stony Brook senior at the time, died after being hit by a truck while cycling on Nicolls Road, according to media reports. The year prior, Shubo Lin, 20, a transfer student from China Medical University enrolled in the Intensive English Program, died after being hit by multiple vehicles while attempting to cross Nicolls Road on foot.
On July 26 of last year, after the speed limit change, a motorcyclist died after losing control of his vehicle and colliding with a cable along the center median between the Main and South Entrances of campus.
“I think we have made this roadway safer,” Lenahan said. In support of this claim, he cited the decreased speed limit and recent efforts by the University to educate motorists on the dangers of speeding, as well as the newly-purchased Variable Message Sign that was placed on Nicolls Road to remind drivers of their current speed.
On the subject of safe travel back and forth between West and East Campus, Lenahan “would stress the use of the University’s Transportation system [or] using the underpass to travel between” the two campuses. He discouraged pedestrians from trying to cross Nicolls Road itself.
“The University has engaged in an aggressive traffic and pedestrian safety campaign,” Lenahan added.
The “Serious About Safety” campaign, created in April of 2012 as part of a safety initiative launched by Stony Brook President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. after the death of Baek, urges pedestrians to be attentive and wear reflective clothing while asking motorists to yield to pedestrians whenever possible. The campaign also encourages both parties to not use “personal electronic devices so that they can be more aware of their surroundings.”
Correction: March 27, 2015
A previous version of this story stated that the number of speeding tickets issued by UPD nearly tripled in one year. The number of tickets issued nearly quadrupled, and the online version of this story has been corrected.