I-TEAM: State DOT adds 7 new locations to wrong-way driver program
(WFSB) - Another wrong-way crash in the state has left two people dead.
Police say a woman from Massachusetts and her passenger were driving the wrong way on Interstate 91 in Windsor after midnight before hitting another car.
Chief Investigative Reporter Sam Smink dug into the data behind wrong way crashes and is sharing where these crashes seem to happen most, and why.
Because of how often they happen, we started looking at wrong way crashes involving injuries or fatalities going back to 2019.
The numbers are “staggering,” according to people within the state who are working to stop these from happening.
We’ve learned exclusively that they’re even expanding a project that will hopefully stop wrong-way drivers in their tracks.
LOOK UP WRONG-WAY CRASH LOCATIONS:
If you want a chance to look at all of this data yourself, these are two maps the I-team has created to help you do so.
You can see the location of each crash, as well as what time it occurred, and other relevant information.
Wrong-Way Fatal Crash Data:
Wrong-Way Injury Crash Data:
RECENT WRONG-WAY CRASHES:
With seconds to spare, watch as this Lyft driver swerves just in time to avoid being hit by a wrong way driver.
It happened on I-91 in Windsor shortly after midnight. Investigators say Dominique Loiselle and James Bowen, both from Massachusetts were driving south on the northbound side before crashing into another car.
The two died, while another person in a different car went to the hospital.
That’s just the most recent wrong way crash.
In July, officials say a woman was drove in the wrong direction on I-291 in Manchester and struck a tractor trailer head-on.
The next day a wrong-way driver caused a vehicle to flip over in Waterbury.
“What we’re seeing on our roads right now is really staggering and it’s alarming,” says Josh Morgan with the CT Department of Transportation.
DIGGING INTO THE DATA:
The channel 3 I-Team did the math.
41 people have died, and 100 people have been injured in wrong way crashes in Connecticut since 2019.
This year has seen more crashes than the others.
“They’re numbers we haven’t really seen since the 1980′s in terms of fatalities in the roadways,” says Eric Jackson, Executive Director of the CT Transportation Institute.
Jackson says crash data shows most of the wrong-way crashes occur between 11 pm and 4 in the morning, with drivers under 35 being the ones most often driving the wrong-way.
“Traffic speeds are up and risk-taking behavior is significantly up,” says Jackson.
Another common denominator? Impairment.
Nearly all drivers involved in fatal crashes since 2019 had alcohol and/or drugs in their system.
“A lot of the drivers are impaired and they’re not just a little bit impaired, a lot of times the BAC level is two to three times the legal limit, and they have additional drugs in their system,” says Jackson.
When looking at the numbers, Channel 3 found most fatal crashes are happening in Hartford, New Haven, New London and Fairfield Counties.
As for crashes involving just injuries, we’ve seen the most crashes on Route 15 heading North, 95 heading North, crashes on both the North and South sides of Route 8, and many on 84 West.
The State Department of Transportation has identified these areas as hot spots.
“Those are locations that due to the infrastructure, the on ramp and off ramp are right next to each other,” says Morgan.
The areas are more densely populated, meaning more drivers, potentially impaired ones.
“There are bars, restaurants, and active nightlife in the area,” says Morgan.
PILOT PROGRAM PROVIDES POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:
Starting in January, the DOT plans to install bright flashing lights at 16 identified locations.
They’ve added high visibility signs at on and off-ramps at many locations already.
But we’ve learned, because of how often these crashes happen, workers have already started putting the new lights in at 7 more locations, the work will be up and running by the end of the year.
“If it detects a vehicle entering the ramp in the wrong direction, it will turn on bright red flashing LED lights which will hopefully stop the motorists in their tracks,” says Morgan.
The state and the CT Transportation say they are still seeking more solutions.
They are looking at putting multi-colored strips on the guide rails, so “if you’re going in the right direction, then you’re going to see yellow and white, you’re going in the wrong direction, you’re going to see a whole lot of red,” says Morgan.
The DOT is also trying out a program near Brainard Airport on I-91, that would alert state police automatically if a driver enters the wrong ramp, to the highway.
“You have to try, we can’t do nothing, we have to do something and this is kind of the first step,” says Jackson.
As for the driving under the influence? That’s something they can’t stress enough, don’t drive impaired.
“If someone is going to drive impaired, if they’re going to drive drunk, that’s just a really selfish decision that can ultimately cost them, or someone else, their life,” says Morgan.
Copyright 2022 WFSB. All rights reserved.