PLAINVILLE, Conn. (WTNH) — Since the start of 2022, News 8 has reported at least six crashes across Connecticut involving wrong-way drivers. The latest crash happened Wednesday on I-84 in Plainville and left one person dead.
The crash was the fourth deadly crash involving a wrong-way driver in the state this year — one more than Connecticut’s annual average.
“We are starting off really bad for 2022,” Eric Jackson, executive director of the Connecticut Transportation Institute at UConn, said.
Police said a 43-year-old man from Berlin was killed Wednesday after driving the wrong way on I-84 in Plainville and crashing head-on into another vehicle.
“If someone is barreling down the road at 60 miles per hour, coming at you, it’s a really difficult situation for you to be in,” Alec Slatky, director of public and government affairs for AAA Northeast, said.
Slatky said Connecticut was well behind the rest of the country in wrong-way crashes in the last decade, but that trend changed this year.
“Our biggest problem in Connecticut is impaired driving,” Jackson said. “We are always in the top three states in terms of fatalities involving an impaired driver. Around 40% of our fatalities involve a driver that is impaired.”
The Connecticut Transportation Safety Institute studies all crashes in the state. Jackson said wrong-way drivers are three times more likely to be impaired, and peak times for crashes involving wrong-way drivers are between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation implemented a pilot program to deter wrong-way drivers from getting onto the highway, identifying 15 off-ramp locations state officials considered at the highest risk.
One of the higher-risk locations for wrong-way drivers is at the I-91 Exit 8 off-ramp in New Haven. Through the pilot program, the DOT will soon install a 360-camera to detect wrong-way vehicles and wrong-way warning signs with flashing LED red lights.
“You can have flashing lights, you can have big flashing signs, but if the person is so intoxicated that they ignore those signs, it’s not going to stop that person from going the wrong direction on the interstate,” Jackson said.
Based on AAA’s research of wrong-way crashes in the last decade, 60% were the results of an intoxicated driver.
The DOT is considering expanding their wrong-way pilot program to more exit ramps, but they need your input to determine more locations.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 38,680 traffic-related deaths in the U.S. last year — the most since 2007.