Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up article. To see the original article, please click HERE.
By Philip R. Devlin
On February 26, 2022, there were two wrong-way crashes in Connecticut that resulted in six deaths. One crash occurred on I-91 near Meriden with a car that was traveling south in the northbound lane. Two people died. The other accident occurred 20 minutes later and killed four women in Hartford on I-84. In both instances the impaired wrong-way drivers were in the passing lane, traveling at night.
The February 26th crashes began a series of other deadly wrong-way crashes that now borders on the unbelievable, culminating yesterday with a wrong-way crash right here in Haddam on the Route 82 connector from Route 9. That crash killed two people and injured two others, one severely. From January 1st through the end of May, at least 138 people have died in motor vehicle crashes in Connecticut— more than double the fatalities that occurred in the entire year of 2019. Furthermore, the state has now had more wrong-way fatalities in the first five months of this year than in all of 2021!
Consider this sequence of wrong-way crashes between February 26th and May 31st:
February 26th: Two late night wrong-way crashes kill six— two in Meriden on I-91 and four in Hartford on I-84.
March 2nd: State Police stop a wrong-way driver on Route 15 in Orange.
A trooper saw a vehicle driving southbound in the northbound lanes near Exit 57 around 2:23 a.m. Two state troopers brought the wrong-way driver to a stop. Police said. “The vehicle operator, a 77-year-old, appeared disoriented during initial contact with Troopers.”
March 9th: A vehicle traveling the wrong way on Interstate 84 crashed into the cruiser of a state trooper who was attempting to pull the driver over, officials said. The Chevy Malibu was traveling around 4:49 a.m. near exit 58 on I-84 in East Hartford. A state trooper activated his emergency lights and sirens, but the Chevrolet crashed into the front left corner of the cruiser.
March 23rd: I-84 West in Plainville. Man at 2 p.m. driving east in the westbound lane killed on the scene. The dead man was 43 and from Berlin.
March 24th: East Windsor. An impaired 18 year old driving a Honda Passport going south in the northbound lane on I-91, struck and severely injured two passengers in a car on an entrance ramp.
April 16th: About 4 a.m. a Meriden man drove south in the northbound lane of Route 9 near the junction with I-91. A brave state trooper, reacting to numerous call-ins, rammed his cruiser into the wrong-way driver’s car and stopped a potentially fatal crash. Trooper was hospitalized. The driver of the wrong-way car failed a field sobriety test and was alone.
April 19th: A man driving west in the eastbound lane of I-691 in Meriden struck and injured two people in a car. Serious injuries were reported.
May 12th: Police respond to the report of a crash near Exit 52 on the eastbound side of I-84 around 12:30 a.m. and discover that a wrong-way driver was traveling westbound on the eastbound side of I-84. The vehicle traveling westbound collided head-on with another vehicle traveling on the eastbound side of I-84. The crash caused heavy damage to both vehicles. Both had to be towed from the scene. The driver of the vehicle was arrested for DUI.
May 29th: Very early Sunday morning on I-95 in Guilford, four Connecticut residents were killed in a wrong-way crash. On January 16th of this year another wrong-way crash killed two other people at 10:45 p.m. in the very same area in Guilford when a northbound driver was driving in the southbound lane.
May 31st: A wrong-way accident on the connector between Route 82 and Route 9 claims the lives of two elderly women from New Haven who were traveling in the wrong lane. This accident marked the 11th wrong-way accident in Connecticut this year. Fifteen have died and numerous others have been seriously injured.
Deaths from wrong-way crashes have been rising in recent years, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said in a recently released study that looked at the number of wrong-way crashes on divided highways nationwide.
Wrong-way driving crashes have caused 2,008 deaths nationwide between 2015 and 2018; that is an average of about 500 per year, compared with an average of 375 deaths per year from 2010- 2014, an increase of more than 33% in the four most recent years included in the study.
On February 25th in Goleta, California, a very brave California Highway Patrol officer got a report of a wrong-way driver coming his way. Officer Leal deliberately crashed his Chevy SUV patrol car into the side of a wrong-way driver on California 101, stopping her. It was 3:30 a.m., dark, and the driver was drunk. He probably saved someone’s life by risking his own.
The worst wrong-way accident in recent memory actually occurred at 1:30 in the afternoon on the Taconic State Parkway in Mount Pleasant, NY. Diane Schuler, a 36 year-old mother of two, was driving a Ford Windstar van while intoxicated. Schuler, her daughter, and her three nieces were all killed as well as three people in the car that she struck while going the wrong way—a total of eight dead in one accident. Schuler was traveling at 85 mph when she crashed. How her five-year-old son survived a crash like that is a miracle.
Some factors to think about and to learn from concerning wrong way accidents:
- 60% of wrong way drivers are impaired by either alcohol or drugs. Other factors include elderly drivers who have visual problems or get confused. Weather can sometimes play a role as well.
- About 70% of these accidents involving wrong-way drivers occur at night.
- The vast majority of these accidents involve a driver in your left lane, as these drivers think they are in their right lane.
- Usually, wrong way drivers are driving alone. If passengers are present, often that other set of eyes can alert the driver to his/her mistake.
- These accidents have an extremely high fatality rate as the crashes are usually head-on at highway speeds; furthermore, survivors often have horrific injuries requiring multiple surgeries and lengthy, painful recoveries.
- Annually in Connecticut there are 39 crashes killing 49 people—1 every 9 days—the highest of any New England state; many others suffer terrible physical and mental injuries, including first responders who deal with violent deaths.
- The most dangerous state for wrong-way crashes is Texas, which averages 446 wrong- way crashes with 609 fatalities each year—more than twice the statistics of California, which has a much bigger population than Texas.
- The safest places involving wrong-way accidents are Washington, D.C. (avg. of 0) and both Vermont and New Hampshire (about 2 each on avg.)
- The absolutely most dangerous place for a wrong-way accident to occur is on a curve on a divided, limited-access highway. You cannot see the car or its headlights coming at you until the very last moment; therefore, it is of the utmost importance for safety to always be in the right lane when rounding a curve, as the chances are very high that won’t be the lane in which you’ll find a wrong-way driver; furthermore, the right lane affords you room in the breakdown lane to take evasive action if necessary.
Photos by Phil Devlin