Another week, another fatality on the South Fork roads. The death of Douglas Schneiderman, 51, of McLean, Va., in a head-on collision on Route 114 as he was headed to Sag Harbor on Sunday brought the total dead this summer in incidents in eastern Southampton Town and East Hampton to five. Make no mistake, five automobile-related deaths here is a significant number; in some years there have been none at all. And then there are the accidents in which people are injured, with some victims carrying physical or mental scars with them the rest of their lives. Mr. Schneiderman’s wife and daughter were seriously injured in the crash, as was the driver of the other vehicle, Brian K. Midgett, 20, of East Hampton.
As notable as the statistics has been a common reaction among many people we have spoken to since news of Sunday’s crash began to spread. To a man and a woman, the sense has been that these deaths are not surprising, given the heightened craziness and risk on the roads this season. The South Fork seems out of control as too many people compete for too little space on the beaches, in shops and restaurants, and on the pavement.
For many, the balance has been tipped too far in favor of the summer hordes. The result is a place that does not feel like home during what many consider the nicest part of the year. Elected officials have dismissed complaints about noisy, overcrowded nightclubs by telling neighbors in effect to grin and bear it because the disturbances would last for only a few months. Yet East Hampton Town is fast becoming something unfamiliar, something its residents did not sign up for. The feeling is widespread.
Drawing a straight line from the summertime madness to Mr. Schneiderman’s death — and the others — is impossible. What must be understood and reflected on by those in a position to do something to stem the tide, however, is that many people strongly believe there is a connection.