SEA SEA BRIGHT — With the closure of the Oceanic Bridge last month Sea Bright has seen more traffic making its way through the borough. And more traffic means more traffic violations.
Police Chief John Sorrentino this week said his officers have issued more traffic summons in the last few months over the same time last year.
According to the numbers Sorrentino provided, in Sept. 2011 the department issued 176 motor vehicle violations, compared to 83 in Sept. 2010; in Oct. 2010 the number was 113, and a year later it rose to 128. And from Oct. 17, when the bridge closed for repair work, until Nov. 18, police gave out 184 tickets; while during the same time last year the number was 130.
“There’s more traffic coming over,” Sorrentino said this week, explaining the increase. “There are so many people who use that Oceanic Bridge that it is just a higher volume of traffic on Ocean Avenue.”
The Oceanic Bridge spans the Navesink River, connecting Rumson to the Locust section of Middletown. The bridge was closed last month for repair work and is expected to remain closed until next May.
With the bridge closed, vehicles heading to Middletown, Highlands and Atlantic Highlands must travel over Coopers Bridge in Red Bank or follow the detour signs through Rumson over the Sea Bright and travel north along Ocean Avenue(State Highway 36), to their destination. And as Sorrentino pointed out, “More cars, obviously more tickets.”
The majority of tickets the department issued were for speeding and improper use of a handheld cell phone while driving, according to Sorrentino.
As for the rise in ticketing, the chief noted, “Sea Bright is basically one street, a state highway,” and “We’re always out there.”
“We’re always going to be aggressive when it comes to people who are speeding and on their cell phones,” he said, making it clear violators would be stopped and issued tickets.
And that is all right with Mayor Maria Fernandes. “The residents have been complaining that there is a lot of speeding going through town,” especially in the north beach area, where Fernandes lives.
Fernandes suspects it is commuters coming over the Sea Bright Bridge on their way to ferry terminals in Highlands and Atlantic Highlands who account for the majority of the speeders.
“They step on the pedal to the metal and they’re chatting away on their cell phones,” Fernades said. “I don’t think they realize how fast they’re going; they’re too involved in their conversations.”
The speed limit along Ocean Avenue is 40 miles per hour for most of the year, with the state Department of Transportation giving the borough permission to lower it to 35 during the summer months, Fernandes said.
A ticket using a cell phone while driving carries a $130 penalty upon conviction, according to Stephanie Seyr, deputy court clerk for the combined Municipal Court for Sea Bright and Oceanport.
Fines for speeding range from $85 to $260 and can include the loss of a driver’s license and the issuance of motor vehicle points, starting at two, Seyr said. And while the municipality does earn revenue from summonses, it does not get to keep it all as some of it is distributed to a variety of state agencies and programs.