Island police chiefs have a message for visitors

The public service announcement has gone up at the Vineyard Haven terminal. -Courtesy Bruce McNamee

The chiefs of police of all six Martha’s Vineyard towns recently issued a public announcement, notifying vacationers of some necessary Island bylaws and safety precautions as summer moves forward in full swing. 

The announcements will be displayed on Steamship Authority ferries and at terminals, after a request was made on behalf of the chiefs by Edgartown Chief Bruce McNamee and approved by the SSA board.

“We’re trying to make sure that people coming to the Vineyard realize they’re not driving on the streets of Manhattan or Westchester or D.C., or wherever they’re coming from,” Martha’s Vineyard representative to the Steamship Authority Jim Malkin said during that board meeting. “The roads are narrower, the traffic is slower, there’s sand on the sides of the roads, and all the things we on the Island deal with, Cape communities deal with as well [in efforts] to make it safer as people face the summer congestion.”

With an Islandwide staffing shortage that has seeped into the towns’ emergency response departments, McNamee is hopeful that appealing to visitors directly will help in raising overall safety awareness, and in turn, may have the ability to prevent serious issues or emergencies.

McNamee said the information will be available on ferries and at terminals, and plans are in the works to get notices on the VTA buses and into Chamber of Commerce informational packets.

On how to inform the public on some of the — perhaps lesser known — rules of the Island, all six chiefs have been working together to determine the best course of action. Geared toward first-time visitors and repeat guests, the informational notifications will provide an outline of the do’s and don’ts of the Island, with the aim that fewer vacationers may require emergency services. 

The towns also encourage visitors to consider public transportation, as traffic congestion hits its peak in the next few months. McNamee expects parking to be more of a challenge than usual.

“Fewer cars, fewer car accidents,” McNamee said.

The town police chiefs ask that visitors respect the parks, beachfronts, streets, roadways, and pristine habitats by not littering, and adhering to the traditional Island policy, “Carry In, Carry Out.” 

Unlike most of Massachusetts, the average speed limit on Martha’s Vineyard is 25 to 30 mph; no road exceeds 45 mph. Many roads are winding and/or narrow, and are shared with bicyclists, prompting recommendations from the towns that all bike riders exercise caution and wear a helmet, and follow the flow of traffic. When possible, cyclists are encouraged to use the designed bike paths, due to summer increases in bicycle accidents, which the Island is trying to reduce. 

Similarly, the Island’s police chiefs emphasize that visitors on rented mopeds must “complete all required training and adhere to the provided safety instructions, as we have had a number of very serious moped accidents over the years.”

Additionally, the towns are encouraging visitors to be mindful of their temporary neighbors, as on the Vineyard, noise ordinances are strictly enforced. 

Although dining establishments differ throughout the Island, no Vineyard restaurant or bar remains open past 1 am, and drinking alcohol in public is illegal in most towns. 



  1. wow so all bad driving is tourists? how about kids home from college or heres a thought… locals. wow we really know how to divide on this island. this is not yankees vs red sox you know.

  2. I am surprised this reminder from the island Police Chiefs to our visitors did not include warnings that several law enforcement officers will be celebrating birthdays this summer and we all know what that means, lock your doors at night!

    • I think Mr. Kozak always wanted to be a police officer. Positive as usual Mr. Kozak.

    • And, perhaps put away your honey? Give it a rest, Mr Kozak. You’re a broken record, and we’ve all moved on to digital.

  3. Going to the Vineyard or Nantucket is no different then going to the Hamptons or Newport. The island feel is long gone. Both have been developed as if there is no limit to land to build on. I visited MV last summer for the first time since I was a young boy. The traffic is horrible. They have allowed almost all spaces to be developed on, and now they are crying about people driving like they’re in the Hamptons. I agree please drive safely. But they don’t have anyone to blame but themselves.

  4. The worst drivers up-island are the locals in trucks, especially if they’re
    hauling a landscaping equipment trailer behind.

    • Trailers require some finesse. To get a Class A commercial drivers license, which involves semi trucks with trailers, you need to complete 160 hours of certified training and then demonstrate your ability maneuvering a trailer in front of a state police officer. With the smaller vehicles, anyone can do it, so it comes down to the skill and attention of an individual driver

      • Thank you, Julian. I think i may have used the word “trailer” incorrectly? Many of the smaller trucks with lawn mowers on the flat bed attached behind them seem to drive either straddling the middle line or close to crossed over it entirely. Nearly all seem unable to drive on the up island roads. I also experienced a local I know in a food delivery truck swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid a bicyclist, rather than slow down or wait, and he almost hit me head on. I swerved into a shallow ditch off the road to avoid him. I gave up walking, even in off-season, on North Road because of local drivers. Common courtesy goes a long way. (That goes for putting on masks during covid surges, too!)

        • I think you make an excellent point that there is a dangerous confluence of narrow roads, large vehicles, and inexperienced or distracted drivers. I don’t blame you one iota for avoiding the narrow roads during the high season. Safety first.

        • Más paciencia y menos perdonas. Shouts to Julian teaching us Spanish as kids in west tis also!

  5. An informative article for visitors who may have never come to the island prior. Somehow this is targeting tourists? Seems appropriate and thoughtful. Thank you.

  6. Iceland has tourist etiquette signs posted in hotels and other visitor sites gently reminding visitors to obey the rules of the road and respect the natural environment and the local people and cultural traditions. Not a bad idea for all of us to heed everywhere we go.

  7. Thank you so much for being proactive. I have repeatedly complained about rolling stop vehicles at the 4-way by the OB fire station, but complaining didn’t do anything. Welcoming people on the ferry with a guide to customs and rules is a great step. Kudos to you for doing it.

  8. Please encourage neighborly noise restraints at nite while you’re developing this…. 1 am this morning Kennebec was a raucous yelling fest at Backdoor donuts. No police patrol, no attempt to calm the “customers” by the staff. I sleep less than 100’ from this . No need to be screaming. Speeding, yelling, …. Same lack of consciousness and respect for people who live here. Thanks

  9. I hate when people fudge numbers to make their point. It’s impossible for the average speed limit is 25-30mph! The lowest is 20 and there are only a few places that I know of. The average speed is much closer to 35. Just tell the truth, you don’t need to lie to make the point.

    • Have you actually driven every single road on the island? Because the speed limit on my road is 15 and a section of Meshacket Rd in Edgartown is 10. So you can stop accusing people of lying when clearly you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • I live here Carla, been here over 30 years. You’re correct there are a few places that have 10-15 mph but I will wager anything you like that the average speed limit is well over 30mph on MV and no where close to 25mph.

        • Scott– while it would be pretty time consuming to actually figure out the “average” speed limit, I wouldn’t go putting out any bets.
          There are plenty of dirt back roads on the island. I of course am not sure what the actual “legal” speed limit is on some of these private roads. I often see signs that say “speed limit 7.5 mph”.
          Think about it — every side street — every dirt road. Even Franklin st is 25 for a portion…20 around the loop…
          But just for fun, I’ll take you up on this one– as this has sparked my curiosity.
          Averaging miles of road with the speed limit on all of them. There are of course all sorts of ambiguities about what a legal speed limit is.
          How about the loser buys a takeout lunch and we eat at the Tisbury water works ?
          If we can’t agree on what the real average is, we both pay for our own .

  10. I think a way for us to help the flow of traffic is not make downtown Edgartown so much car centric. Only cars that should be going down there is commercial vehicles and people trying to get to work. Making it more accessible for people that are biking and walking and those who may be handicapped, will make it more friendly for those visiting and less traffic, overall better for the environment as well. It will also encourage people to not drive but use other means of transportation. I think it could work not only for Edgartown but our other towns, making It more friendly for those walking and biking.

  11. Rough math… 200,000 summer visitors/summer residents per week divided by 4 (the number of people per car) you get 50,000 more cars on the road from say mid June to mid sept. Really rough estimate. But that’s more new cars on the road then there are year round residents according to the last census. Ponder pon that. Those are prolly conservative estimates not given delivery trucks and construction/landscape trucks that also occupy the roads more during these months. Also the roads now have lots of bumps cause the weight of so many vehicles have moved the land under the black top. We don’t have concrete under the black top so there’s a constant bumpiness to the roads. My mom thought the car was out of alignment I tried to tell her this and she instigated I get it checked nothing was wrong with the car it was the road. Lots to ponder pon.

  12. The recent modifications to Beach Road are a tremendous step forward for cyclists. The important feature is a reduction of vehicular travel lane from 12 feet to 10.5 feet and the expansion of bike lanes, with markings, to 5 feet. I would like to call this to the attention of island select boards and police chiefs because this really works especially with our speed limits. However, from the drawbridge to the MV Shipyard these markings and improvements are lacking. As cyclists come off he drawbridge they do not generally flow with traffic and as they use a cycle path on the pond side of the road they travel in both directions and end up using the sidewalk on Beach Road and do not use the bike lane provided in many cases.

    This is a minor problem but a more serious one exists on State Road. The fog line there, denoting a bicycle lane, allows a cyclist to use a bike lane that is literally inches from the curb. A woman was crushed to death falling over on this stretch by a tractor trailer. However, the travel lane for motor vehicles is exceptionally wide on State Road and could be reduced to 10.5 feet easily, in my opinion, and this could allow an additional 1.5 feet or more for cyclists on both sides as well. It would behoove us to examine this possibility for the sake of safety for cyclists and to calm traffic to a moderate extent.

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