Police: RIDOT’s wrong-way detection system would not have prevented fatal crash

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A tragic wrong-way crash that left two dead, including a Jamestown police officer, happened just as the state works to cut down on wrong-way crashes.

As we’ve previously reported, new technology is being used to prevent these types of crashes – but according to State Police, RIDOT’s pilot program to detect wrong-way drivers wouldn’t have been applicable in this particular case.

Mounted on long poles, radars detect wrong-way drivers in 24 trouble spots throughout Rhode Island. The system not only alerts the wrong-way driver but also warns police and other motorists.

The radars detect drivers who get on the wrong highway ramp – not those who make U-turns in the middle of the road and head in the wrong direction.

That’s what happened early Monday morning in East Greenwich.

“What we can do then is at least notify drivers as soon as we get that report,” said Bob Rocchio, a RIDOT managing engineer. “We do have cameras on our freeways.”

In fact, RIDOT has dozens of cameras and officials monitor them 24/7.

“If we see that happening, we’ll put a message on the nearest electronic message board warning drivers to be on the lookout for a wrong-way driver,” Rocchio said.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 360 people die every year in wrong-way crashes.

“There has been an uptick, and there’s several reasons for it,” Rocchio said. “From impairment to older drivers, to increased legal and illegal drug use.”

If you see a wrong-way driver, AAA Northeast says you should just get out of the way as quickly as you can.

“Our instinct is to go right,” said Dave Raposa of AAA. “And we would hope that if the other person coming toward us recognizes the same situation, that their instinct is to go right.”

AAA recommends traveling in the center lane so you can swerve left or right to avoid a crash.

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