As of late Friday night, reports were appearing on the internet about a head-on collision on the westbound lane of Interstate 90. The crash happened at around 8:30 pm on September 7, 2012, near exit 6 of the turnpike, close to mile marker 54. As authorities responded to the incident, traffic was diverted off the highway at exit 7, near Ludlow, Massachusetts, according to Trooper Kenneth Gaetz.
It had been assumed early on that the cause of the accident was a driver heading east on the westbound lane. Two other cars slammed into the first accident causing a pile up that snarled the weekend traffic. At least two people were taken by ambulance to Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts and the highway was shut down for roughly three hours. Area police and fire departments, state police crime scene and accident reconstruction units, and the State Department of Highways were all present on the scene. Authorities had gathered, but not yet confirmed, that a 2001 Honda from Connecticut was driving the wrong way down the westbound lane on the turnpike and crashed into a 1993 Subaru registered to an address in West Brookfield.
Tragically, new reports arose this morning saying that both men in the original pile up succumbed to their injuries and were pronounced at the hospital. David Procopio, spokesman for the State Police, asserted that there were other injured but he would not specify. The names of the deceased have been withheld. All that is presently known is that the man who was driving the wrong way down the westbound lane was 84 years old. The driver of the 1993 Subaru was 29. The investigation is now being overseen by Troop E of the Massachusetts State police along with the aforementioned organizations.
A question that immediately popped in my mind, as well as many of those who read the articles online, was, “How does a person end up driving down the wrong direction of a highway?” Such an odd occurrence happened four times within two months this year in Chicago. A 70 year old woman caused a crash doing the same this past June in Connecticut. Just two weeks ago, an inebriated driver injured six doing the same in Atlanta.
The problem of wrong-way driving has become frequent enough to command studies on the matter from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Illinois Department of Transportation. So far, not much is known. Engineering is being questioned as experts want to learn if there is any way to make directional signs clearer to further prevent such tragedies. But what has been confirmed, though may not come as a shock, is that many wrong-way drivers are either intoxicated or elderly. However, a significant difference between the two is that if an elderly person somehow finds him or herself turned around, they are usually prone to pulling over to the shoulder of the road. What is also known is that this event usually occurs at night and almost exclusively in urban areas.
As alcohol abuse is a known ingredient of this phenomenon, authorities have been taking greater strides to preclude drunk driving. Though these implementations come at a cost and years may pass before they become widespread, a day may arrive when an inebriated motorist won’t be able to start their car as the blood alcohol level will be detected through their skin as they grab the steering wheel. Such a day can’t come soon enough.