In a significant move aimed at enhancing road safety, the Senate unanimously approved a bill addressing the rising incidence of wrong-way driving.
This action follows a series of tragic accidents resulting in 15 fatalities from 27 wrong-way crashes in just five months of 2023. There were 13 wrong-way crashes statewide last year, resulting in 22 deaths. The frequency of these preventable incidents has deeply affected the Senate, prompting them to search for solutions to curb these tragedies.
“We all know this all too well, the pain and anguish of family and loved ones,” Sen. Christine Cohen, co-chair of the Transportation Committee, said referring to Rep. Quentin ‘Q’ Williams who died in January after a wrong-way driver crashed into his vehicle on Route 9 in Cromwell. Williams, 39, was a state representative from Middletown.
The bill, which passed unanimously and now heads to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk, would require the Department of Transportation to install alert systems for drivers and police in more locations.
The Department of Transportation would also need to start a public awareness campaign, including what drivers should do when they encounter wrong-way drivers.
Cohen said there have been 236 locations identified as high risk and the bill will look at 120 of those locations. Lamont has already allocated $20 million for lights and sensors that alert state police in 16 locations.
Cohen noted that 80% of these accidents were due to drivers under the influence of alcohol, urging citizens to prioritize road safety. “Get a designated driver if you are going to go out,” she advised.
The new bill aims to leverage crash prevention technology, establish a public awareness campaign, and collaborate with law enforcement to ensure swift notification when a driver is detected entering an exit ramp. It’s a comprehensive strategy aimed at emulating best practices seen in other states, including Rhode Island, which has experienced significant results in reducing wrong-way accidents.
The bill also tasks the DOT to install special rumble strips at on-ramps that only cause vibration and audible rumbles when someone crosses them the wrong way. It’s a measure used in other states.
Finally, the bill requires the DOT to launch a public awareness campaign to reduce incidents and to educate drivers about what to do if another vehicle is going the wrong way.
Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, highlighted the urgent need for such measures, emphasizing the startling 500% increase in fatal wrong-way driving incidents. He also acknowledged the many near-miss incidents that often go unreported. “It is a preventable tragedy,” Hwang stated, underscoring the importance of common sense and respect for road rules.