As we approach the holiday travel season, Massachusetts and Connecticut are installing new wrong-way detection systems for safer roads.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has announced a $2.6 million project to install wrong-way detection systems along 16 Massachusetts highway ramps. There will be several road closures this week in Danvers, Plymouth, Burlington, Webster and Bernardston, according to The Boston Globe.
MassDOT reports work will continue through Spring 2023. The systems will use thermal imaging cameras to detect wrong-way travel. While we will learn more next Spring, Rhode Island and Florida already have similar technology in place to reduce the risk of fatal car accidents. These systems can flash warning lights to drivers before they make wrong turns or alert other drivers of hazardous conditions. The systems can also warn law enforcement when someone makes a wrong turn.
Wrong-Way Crashes Claiming More Lives
Many wrong-way crashes occur on divided highways. These crashes killed approximately 500 people each year between 2015 and 2018, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This represented a 34 percent increase from 2010 to 2014.
How many people have been killed in wrong-way crashes here in Massachusetts? According to MassDOT, there have been over 2,000 reports of wrong-way vehicles on limited access highways since 2014. Wrong-way crashes have claimed more than 40 lives.
In 2021, AAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called on states to adopt countermeasures, including alcohol ignition interlocks, sobriety checkpoints and adding more visible warning signals.
Operating Under the Influence Causes 6 in 10 Wrong-Way Crashes
Drivers who consume alcohol or drugs, then operate while impaired cause 6 out of 10 wrong-way crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Older drivers and drivers who travel without passengers are also at a higher risk for wrong-way collisions. AAA has reported nearly 87 percent of wrong-way drivers were traveling alone.
Wrong-Way Safety Measures Across New England
You will find wrong-way detection systems in Rhode Island and now, Connecticut. Rhode Island first installed wrong-way detection systems in 2015, following a similar effort in San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio’s wrong-way driver initiative has been credited with a 30 percent reduction in wrong-way driving incidents and improved reporting.
Connecticut is moving forward with wrong-way detection systems after a devastating year of car accidents and injuries. In October, the Connecticut Department of Transportation introduced the new technology. At the same time, officials reported 22 people had been killed in wrong-way crashes in Connecticut in 2022, the highest number in recent memory.
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