Police: Wrong-Way Driver On County Road 51 Leads Officers On Chase

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After a Southampton Town Police cruiser was nearly hit by a woman driving the wrong way on County Road 51 in Northampton early Saturday morning—several motorists were forced to leave the roadway to avoid head-on collisions—police chased the driver for more than six miles before she finally pulled over on Sunrise Highway in East Moriches, where she was found to be intoxicated, according to authorities.

Southampton Town Police said members of the Community Response Unit were driving north on County Road 51 near Old Moriches Road at 12:41 a.m. when they were passed by a white Audi convertible that was speeding south on their side of the divided highway. The officers immediately turned around, getting into the southbound lanes, to chase the vehicle. Police said the driver, who exceeded 70 mph at times during the ensuing pursuit, ignored their repeated requests to pull over.

After nearly hitting a full-size charter bus near the County Road 111 intersection, police said the driver—whom they later identified as Jennifer R. Paterno, 31, of Patchogue and Bloomfield, New Jersey—continued south in the northbound lanes until reaching the Valero gas station near Eastport-Manor Road in Eastport. Authorities said she made a U-turn, reentered the northbound lanes and then turned onto Eastport-Manor Road before making another U-turn and entered the southbound lanes of County Road 51, this time heading in the correct direction. She exited onto the Sunrise Highway westbound ramp, again accelerating to a high rate of speed and traveling about a mile before pulling over at 12:47 a.m. on the side of the highway in East Moriches, police said.

Police said they determined that she was intoxicated and took her into custody without further incident.

No injuries or accidents were reported during the pursuit, according to authorities.

Ms. Paterno was charged with DWI, second-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree unlawful fleeing of a police officer and reckless driving, all misdemeanors, and cited for numerous traffic infractions.

She was arraigned Sunday morning in Southampton Town Justice Court and released after posting $2,500 cash bail, officials said. She must return to court at a later undetermined date.

Witnesses to the incident are asked to contact the Community Response Unit at 631-702-2250.

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