I-Team Investigation: State working to prevent wrong-way crashes

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Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 7:48 PM EST
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(WFSB) – “It was supposed to be four girls out having fun...”

Instead, that girl’s night ended in a horrific wrong-way crash in the I-84 tunnel in Hartford, killing all four women inside.

In a span of an hour, six people were killed in two separate wrong-way crashes in Connecticut.

Tonight, the family of one of the victims is calling attention to wrong-way driving, while the I-Team takes a closer look at how often it’s happening and where.

“We’re still kind of in disbelief. It’s hard to get push notifications about someone you love,” said Ivelisse Correa, victim’s cousin.

On an early Sunday morning eight days ago, four families got that crushing alert.

Shortly before 3 a.m., four women inside an SUV were killed inside the I-84 tunnel in Hartford.

37-year-old Yarelis Ramos was a passenger in that car.

Police say the driver was going the wrong way and collided with an oncoming conventional cab truck.

Exactly 20 minutes before that, in Meriden, two drivers died on I-91 north after one car was going the wrong way.

In that one-hour span, six people died in wrong-way crashes.

“We love her too much,” said Santos Sanchez, victim’s Grandmother.

Ramos’ family wants you to see the raw pain they’re feeling.

“She was looking forward to one day having a baby and we only have pictures left,” Correa said.

Yarelis also had a dream of owning a nail salon.

“She was always like the family designer for nails. If you had a prom or date, she was the one you called,” Correa said.

Since 2020, the state has lost 11 people to wrong-way crashes. 29 were injured.

“We see these crashes in our more populated cities, whether it’s Bridgeport, Hartford or Stamford or Danbury, some of those locations where you have a larger opportunity for people to be traveling in the wrong direction,” said Eric Jackson of the Connecticut Transportation Institute.

Jackson is the Director of the Connecticut Transportation Institute.

They collect crash data from around the state.

The institute found the peak time for wrong-way crashes is between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Jackson says the age range of those involved varies.

“Drivers in their 20s, up through their late 40s and 50s are typically represented the highest,” Jackson said.

The Department of transportation is ramping up efforts to redirect drivers, adding high visibility signs at on and off-ramps.

The state has also identified 15 locations where new technology will be installed as part of a pilot program.

“They’re going to add some flashing beacons and some alerts that if they do detect that a vehicle is traveling the wrong direction, drivers will be alerted through a siren or flashing lights that they are heading the wrong way,” said Jackson.

But the more we dive into the stats, the more we realize, wrong-way driving isn’t a highway problem; it’s an impairment problem.

“We’re always one of the top three states in the country for impaired driving and impaired driving fatalities. Around 40% of our fatalities in the state are due to people that are under the influence of either drugs or alcohol,” Jackson said.

Toxicology reports from that deadly Sunday morning eight days ago won’t be ready for at least another month and the medical examiner’s office says it isn’t public record.

Ramos’ family says the pain we’re witnessing could have been avoided.

“Whatever we can do to prevent this pain for another family is something we’re going to be looking to do because I don’t want my cousin’s death to be in vain,” Correa said.

There is a GoFundMe for Ramos to help pay for the unexpected funeral costs here.

If you happen to find yourself driving the wrong way, experts say you should go to the shoulder, call police and have an officer assist you in turning around or getting off the road.

Do not attempt a U-turn.