After a deadly weekend in CT, data shows fatal crashes are rising nationwide

In a series of car crashes over the weekend, eight people were killed in three separate crashes in Hartford, Meriden and Newington on Saturday and Sunday.

The eight deaths come amid a recent spike in fatal crashes in Connecticut, according to state police data.

State police said the collisions between Hartford and Meriden involved oncoming drivers. Police say another contraflow driver was arrested in Seymour on Saturday. No accidents were reported during this incident, but the driver was accused of being under the influence.

With three incidents of contraflow driving all occurring around the same time early Saturday morning, state police released a statement indicating the problem is not unique to Connecticut.

“It’s a battle that’s happening on a national scale and unfortunately it’s not something new,” said Sgt. said Dawn Pagan. “When calls come in reporting wrong-way drivers, state police respond quickly as we fully recognize the imminent danger involved.”

Pagan cited drivers in mental turmoil, disoriented by illness or extreme weather conditions limiting visibility as potential contributing factors in wrong-way crashes.

Patrol officers and drivers calling 911 are often how state police teach wrong-way drivers. Pagan said law enforcement is urging drivers to continue calling 911 if they see an oncoming driver.

At the request of Hearst Connecticut Media on Monday, state police conducted a search of motor vehicle crashes in the agency’s system since 2019. Over the years, it showed the number of fatal crashes had increased, without any clear trend emerging from the oncoming driver. data also provided.

In 2019, according to the data, state troopers responded to 102 fatal crashes, five of which initially allegedly involved a wrong-way driver. There were 106 fatal crashes investigated by state police in 2020, three of which were initially reported to involve a wrong-way driver. Last year, state police investigated 128 fatal crashes, none of which were initially reported to dispatch as involving a wrong-way driver.

So far this year, state police have responded to 17 fatal crashes, two of which initially reported the involvement of wrong-way drivers.

These crashes represent only those investigated by state police. They do not include any surveys conducted by municipal agencies. The figures could also be slightly skewed, officials warned.

“Even if an accident is initially reported as wrong-way driving, without reading each individual investigation report, we are unable to verify that any of the vehicles involved were in fact traveling in the wrong direction,” police said. of state on Monday.

Alec Slatky, director of public affairs for AAA Northeast, said Monday that in general, the murderous weekend in Connecticut is part of a trend that is happening nationwide.

“Really since the pandemic hit almost two years ago at this point, deaths have been going up pretty much everywhere,” Slatky said.

Nationally, there were 38,680 deaths in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Slatky said it was the highest in the country since 2007.

He said that while data is still being finalized for last year, “it looks like the year was even worse.” Current NHTSA data estimates there were 20,160 fatalities in the first half of 2021, putting the year’s total on track for the deadliest crashes since 2006, Slatky said.

He cited more people speeding, fewer people wearing seat belts and an increase in impaired driving as the main contributing factors.

In March last year, AAA published an analysis which showed that the number of wrong-way fatalities was increasing on the country’s highways. This 2021 analysis, however, showed Connecticut had seen a 14% drop in such crashes.

The data used in the study compared data from 2010 to 2014 with data from 2015 to 2018.

During that first set of years, there were 29 fatal wrong-way crashes in Connecticut. There were 20 fatal accidents in the opposite direction over the next four years. Nationally, from 2015 to 2018, there were over 2,000 deaths from oncoming collisions, an average of about 500 per year, an increase of about 34% from the previous four-year period.

Fran Mayko, spokeswoman for AAA Northeast, said last year that alcohol impairment, advanced age and driving without a passenger were the top three factors in fatal wrong-way crashes.

When the AAA released the analysis last year, it attributed the drop in wrong-way fatalities in Connecticut to certain roadway changes implemented since 2015. Among the changes cited were the Department of Transportation of State installing oversized reflective signs along 800 state entrance and exit ramps. highways and air traffic cameras that activate flashing signs when drivers are traveling in the wrong direction. The DOT also repainted worn pavement markings and replaced some missing signage, AAA said.

Slatky said the changes that reflected a downward trend in this second four-year period show the state is “definitely moving in the right direction” when it comes to ways to reduce these types of crashes.

The incidents last week began around 2:25 a.m. Saturday in Meriden on I-91 northbound between exits 17 and 18. State police said Charde Monet Spates, a 21-year-old New Haven resident was driving the wrong way when she collided with 50-year-old Windsor resident Judith Melvin-Levy. They were pronounced dead at the scene. A 21-year-old passenger in Melvin-Levy’s vehicle was assessed for minor injuries.

At approximately 2:46 a.m., a 38-year-old Ellington man driving eastbound on I-84 near exit 51 in Hartford was hit head-on by a car driven by Natchia Izekia Rivera-Hall, a resident of 41-year-old Hartford. The Ellington man was slightly injured. Rivera-Hall and her passengers, April Slade, 41, Yarelis Ramos, 37, and Quashonda Grant, 31, were all killed in the accident.

At around 3am on Saturday, State Police responded to a report of a contraflow driver on Route 8 in Seymour, leading to the arrest of 54-year-old Manchester resident Michael Brown . He was charged with acting under the influence, driving the wrong way on a dual carriageway and failing to hold a license.

Newington police say a four-vehicle crash on East Cedar Street around 9.30am Sunday killed Mark Steiner, 61, a resident of East Hampton, and Alexis Soto, 29, a resident of Wethersfield. Newington police did not specify the cause of the accident.

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