HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Amid an uptick in wrong-way crashes, Connecticut’s Bond Commission approved $20 million in state bond funding Friday for the purchase and installation of equipment designed to help prevent drivers from going the wrong way on state highways.
According to statistics from the Connecticut Transportation Institute at the University of Connecticut, 11 fatal wrong-way crashes have resulted in 20 deaths this year. There were three fatal wrong-way crashes in the state in 2020 and four in 2021, according to the Institute.
Under the program, the state Department of Transportation plans to install 360-degree cameras on 16 wrong-way signs across the state, which will trigger flashing lights when a wrong-way driver is detected.
“It’s shocking,” Gov. Ned Lamont said after Friday’s meeting. “Obviously, coming out of the pandemic, we saw a lot of people driving like a bat out of hell and some extreme driving behavior.”
Eric Jackson, the executive director of the Connecticut Transportation Institute, told News 8 earlier this week that crashes involving aren’t happening because of bad signage or confusing on-and-off ramps, but rather, this is a human behavior issue.
“What we see is the vast majority of fatal wrong-way crashes involve a driver that’s impaired by either drugs or alcohol,” Jackson said. “Most of the time, the BAC of the driver involved in the crash going the wrong-way has a BAC that’s above 0.02%, which is more than twice the legal limit.”
Lamont, who chairs the commission, said state police also have increased patrols and other enforcement activities to curb the problem.
Earlier this year, state Rep. Bobby Gibson (D-Bloomfield), used his platform to raise awareness of wrong-way driving. Gibson’s PSA was inspired by the death of his college football friend and fraternity brother, Melvin Wells of Hamden. State police said a wrong-way driver struck Wells on I-95 in Mystic in March 2018, resulting in Wells’ death and the other driver.
“He was such a giant and a meaningful person and his life were taken so senselessly. It really got my attention,” Gibson told News 8 in May 2022.
The most recent fatal crash involving a wrong-way driver happened on July 24 in Bridgeport. A van traveling the wrong way on Route 8 struck a car carrying a mother and her two children, police said. The mother was killed along with a passenger in the van.