After 20 deaths, Conn. seeks to prevent wrong-way crashes

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut plans to install equipment designed to help prevent drivers from going the wrong way down the state’s highways after nearly a dozen wrong-way crashes led to 20 deaths so far this year.

The effort comes as transportation officials nationwide struggle to curtail a surge in fatalities on U.S. roads that began during the coronavirus pandemic.

Connecticut’s $20 million planned program would install cameras on wrong-way signs across the state which will trigger flashing lights when a wrong-way driver is detected.

There have been 11 fatal wrong-way accidents this year in the state, resulting in 20 deaths, according to statistics from the the Connecticut Transportation Institute at the University of Connecticut. That’s up from three fatal wrong-way crashes in 2020 and four in 2021, according to the Institute.

The latest fatal crash occurred Sunday 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.

“It’s shocking,” Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, 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.”

Officials said about 80% of the accidents involved drivers impaired by alcohol or other substances.

Lamont said state police also have increased patrols and other enforcement activities in an attempt to curb the problem.

“I can guarantee you it is not infrastructure related,” Eric Jackson, the executive director of the Connecticut Transportation Institute, told Hearst Connecticut Media. “The roads and off-ramps have not changed in the last year. It is 100% a driver behavior and human factors issue. Drivers are behaving badly on the roads.”

Nearly 43,000 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2021. That’s the highest number in 16 years, up 10.5% over the previous year in the largest one-year increase since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting fatality data in 1975.