SUFFERN — More than 500 drivers have been issued summonses for speeding and using their cell phones since the village started its Operation Safe Roads program in January.
The program was started after neighbors raised concerns about speeding and their safety, said Mayor John Keegan.
In one case, a man built a fence to protect his children from speeding cars while they played in their Yorkshire Drive yard.
In another, a part broke off a speeding car and nearly hit children playing in a Foxwood Avenue yard, the mayor said.
"There's been just cause for slowing traffic down," Keegan said.
Suffern's location plays a role in the traffic it sees, said village police Chief Clarke Osborn.
Cars and trucks pass through the village on their way to the New York State Thruway, Interstate-287 and Route 17. New Jersey commuters use Ramapo Avenue to travel to the Suffern train station. Other drivers use Yorkshire Drive to cut through Stone Gate condominiums into or out of the village or New Jersey.
To make roads safer, police first began issuing summons for speeding and cell-phone use while driving, Osborn said. The 500 tickets written over the past six months represented a 300 percent increase over the number of summons issued last year for the same offensives, he said.
Police used a new radar trailer, which cost $8,600, to assist their efforts. Such trailers flash a driver's speed as they pass by. The village paid $4,300 for the unit and received a matching grant through the Rockland Sheriff's Department Traffic Safety Office.
The Suffern village board also voted to amend the village code to reduce the speed limit of several roads from 30 to 25 mph, the lowest possible under state law, Osborn said.
Yorkshire Drive and Ramapo Avenue were among the streets where the limit was lowered, he said.
Police are now in the midst of phases two and three of the safety program, focusing on stop signs and commercial vehicles.
Sgt. John Bonkoski was given the task of surveying every stop sign and intersection in the village. He determined that 22 locations were missing their signs and that seven more intersections required signs.
Keegan said village code was reviewed over a 20-year period to check on the status of stop signs throughout Suffern. Signs had either been knocked over and never replaced or never erected to begin with, he said. Osborn said the intersections of Sylvan Way and Vista Way as well as Foxwood Avenue and Mahwah Elks Club were the most in need.
Javier Ojeda, a village resident, said he had noticed a difference when it came to police presence and road safety.
"I've been aware of them being more visible," Ojeda said. "As long as they're visible and the motorists know they're out there, it will help."
The village board also voted to amend the village code to require stricter weight guidelines for commercial vehicles.
Osborn said police would now step up road checks to ensure vehicles met the guidelines. Overweight trucks could have trouble stopping, as was the case recently when an overweight truck drove over two cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, Osborn said.
Keegan credited police with improving the safety of Suffern's roads, and said sometimes it takes a ticket to get a driver's attention.
"It's the old thing," Keegan said. "Once you get stopped by a police officer, it sticks in your mind."