Holiday Traffic, Bridge Accident Tie Up Local Police

Jul 05, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Epic traffic congestion, vehicles blocking intersections, cars going the wrong way down one-way streets, and careless driving – these are just some of the problems Ship Bottom and Stafford Township police contended with over the holiday weekend.

On Sunday as traffic built getting onto Long Beach Island, some motorists took to driving on the shoulder of Route 72 to reach Jennings Road and take the Beach Haven West route to beat the congestion. There was no relief to be found there, and instead some motorists drove on the wrong side of the road to bypass cars as they waited to turn right onto Mill Creek Road.

When contacted early Sunday afternoon, Stafford police said they were aware of the situation, and working to keep up with the influx of calls reporting the incidents.

In Ship Bottom, which funnels all traffic on and off Long Beach Island, police encountered similar challenges as well as bicyclists who weren’t obeying traffic laws and signals.

“That’s so dangerous in this much traffic,” borough Police Sgt. Michael Nash said, adding Ship Bottom police had a difficult time reaching emergency calls because motorists were “simply not moving out of the way for emergency vehicles with lights and sirens activated.”

Yet, even with the invasion of summer visitors to Beach Haven, police there reported most people were generally behaving themselves.

“The main complaints we got were with parking,” Beach Haven Lt. Tom Medel said. “People were saying their driveways were being blocked.”

It was even more subdued on the north end of the Island, according to Harvey Cedars Police Chief Robert Burnaford. Still, he acknowledged while he is accustomed to big crowds and heavy traffic around the Fourth of July, the weekend “seemed more crowded than usual” but the days leading into yesterday’s celebrations were uneventful for borough police.

Burnaford chalked the steady flow on Long Beach Boulevard in Harvey Cedars to normal summer traffic, but hinted it may have been a little heavier than usual due to July 4th falling on a Tuesday.

“Traffic getting onto the Island from Route 72 was heavy even on Monday, he added.

Part of the traffic snarl Monday morning was a five-vehicle collision on the eastbound lanes of the Causeway Bridge. Alyssa Kelly, 25, of Franklinville, struck the rear of a Lexus driven by Dennis Long, 48, of Emerson, as it was stopped in traffic, according to Stafford Township police. The crash caused a chain reaction with three vehicles stopped in front of Long. One of the those vehicles was driven by Jeffrey Pane, 41, of Hillsborough, another by Nancy Deferrari, 55, of Lanoka Harbor, and the last by Randy Abramson, 45, of Silver Springs, Md., Stafford police said.

Three of the five vehicles were towed from the scene, according to township police. Kelly, who was issued a summons for careless driving, Long and his three passengers were taken to Southern Ocean Medical Center for injuries sustained in the initial impact, police said.

Traffic on Route 72 was redirected around the scene for approximately an hour after the 10:17 a.m. accident, Stafford police said. But the impact was felt for hours after with some motorists waiting up to almost three hours to reach the Island. Stafford Township police were assisted at the scene by the Ship Bottom and Long Beach Township police and Stafford Township and Ship Bottom EMS.

In addition to mutual aid for Monday’s collision on the bridge, Long Beach Township police tallied 155 traffic stops from June 30 through July 2, along with 125 parking complaints, stemming from calls from the public to the department about a blocked driveway, for example, or officers addressing the issues while out on routine patrol. In cases where a vehicle is parked too close to a stop sign, or blocking the roadway, or a car is in an otherwise prohibited parking space, the officer will issue a ticket or have the vehicle moved.

Township police also logged a couple dozen additional traffic-related responses – including dealing with disabled vehicles, suspicious cars, reports of erratic drivers and downed traffic signs – and they list 13 counts of pedestrian contact, which refers to advising pedestrians of crosswalk laws.

They also fielded calls about, or were alert to, 18 instances of fireworks usage, and 15 noise complaints over the weekend. As Police Chief Anthony Deely pointed out, the department “issues summons at a small percentage based on the number of contacts we have with the public,” which includes individuals throughout all 12 miles of Long Beach Township as well as Barnegat Light, which township police patrol.

— Gina G. Scala, Eric Englund and Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

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