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Deadly wrong-way crashes are up in Connecticut. What's being done about it?

The DOT and Connecticut Transportation Institute are working to find solutions to an issue that can be difficult to solve.

CONNECTICUT, USA — There is a growing danger out on the roads – wrong-way drivers causing deadly crashes.

On average, about 11 people are killed in wrong-way crashes every year in Connecticut. In 2022, the state has already surpassed that.

"The numbers are really staggering and they're really concerning,” said Josh Morgan, spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “We're not even halfway through the year and this has been the deadliest year in recent memory for wrong-way crashes on state highways.”

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This is where at Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center at the University of Connecticut comes in. The center collects and analyzes crash data across the state as they find the most effective ways to stop wrong-way drivers.

"We're really starting to look into the causes of those crashes and we're trying to understand why they're happening and how we can prevent those in the future," said Eric Jackson, the center’s director. "We've been working on developing what's called wrong-way rumble strips so that if you drive across these rumble strips the correct direction there's very little vibration in the roadway and back into your vehicle but if you drive the wrong direction it feels as though you have a flat tire.”

The center then takes its findings and solutions to the state Department of Transportation. Once an idea gets funding, it can be put into action.

As part of its efforts to curb wrong-way crashes, the DOT said it's added more wrong-way and "do not enter" signs to off-ramps that are larger than federal standards. It's also started to add them to the back of speed limit signs. It will also be rolling out a new pilot program starting next year.

"At 15 different locations that will actually have a 360-degree camera and if a vehicle is detected going the wrong-way, it's going to flash red led lights that will hopefully alert someone like, hey I'm going the wrong way and they stop," Morgan said.

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One of the biggest challenges with wrong-way drivers is that they are difficult to stop.

"Over 90% of the fatal crashes that occur for wrong-way drivers the drivers that were going the wrong direction had a blood alcohol content above .2 which is almost three times the legal limit," Jackson said. "It's very difficult to reach those drivers. Even the most sophisticated technology, flashing lights, you know signage, they're not seeing that anyway. They're so intoxicated that it doesn't make a difference for them.”

He added: “What we need to look at is ways to alerting law enforcement that there is a driver.”

Connecticut State Police said they are always looking out for wrong-way drivers, especially in the overnight hours when the crashes are most likely to happen.

"Wrong-way drivers are not something new to us so we are constantly patrolling the highways, especially at night to catch that wrong-way driver before anything bad happens," said Trooper First Class Pedro Muniz. "Also, you know just DUI enforcement, just stopping cars and making sure that motorists are safe on the roadways," he said.

Traffic fatalities are up overall. Experts said there are many factors, including stress that can translate to bad driving habits and speed.

"Speeds are up in Connecticut and across the country. Something that started kind of trending up during the pandemic, and some of those behaviors are continuing," Morgan said.

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This is why experts said the responsibility of solving the problem of an increase in deadly crashes, ultimately lies in the hands of those behind the wheel.

"The easy solution is people need to slow down, people need to not drive impaired, and they need to focus on driving," Jackson said.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at mmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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