On Thursday, traffic on Scuttlehole Road came to a standstill in both directions as a police chase in progress occupied the Bridgehampton traffic circle for over five hours.
“What began as a minor traffic infraction became a headache for thousands of East End motorists,” Hamptons Police Department spokesman Larry Hirsch says. He explains that the snarl began when a police officer observed a motorist running a stop sign south of the roundabout, and proceeded to follow the car, heading north.
“As anyone out here knows, we usually let a failure to stop infraction go,” Hirsch says, “but, in this case, the officer decided to follow and see if the driver made any other mistakes. It’s always nice to write a ticket for multiple offenses.”
According to Hirsch, about 100 feet south of the traffic circle, the driver began speaking on his cellphone, and at that point the officer turned on his siren and flashers. “He tried to get the guy to pull over before the rotary, but that didn’t happen,” Hirsch says.
Instead, the pursued driver maneuvered his car into the circular road at high speed, followed closely by the police cruiser.
“At that point they basically became stuck,” Hirsch continues. “The pursued driver refused to exit the rotary, and just kept driving at high speed around and around. Likewise, our officer continued to chase after him. Neither car could stop, for fear that the other would crash into them. But there was no way to set up a roadblock, throw spike strips or use any other impediment.”
Drivers headed in all directions found it impossible to enter the traffic circle because of the high speed at which the pursued driver and the police officer were traveling around in it. The circle forms a bottleneck in the area through which all cars must pass.
Unable to proceed, lines of cars stretched for miles along the three roads that feed into the rotary. The situation lasted for over five hours, until at last the car belonging to the pursued driver ran out of gas and sputtered to a stop.
“We questioned the driver,” Hirsch says. “He claimed it was an innocent mistake, and once he got going so fast in the rotary, he genuinely feared for his safety if he were to stop. All in all, the Hamptons Police see this as a cautionary tale: From now on, we don’t plan to enforce stop signs at all—it just leads to trouble.”
After the chase ended, it took about two hours for traffic to resume normally in the area.