In effort to save lives, police, RIDOT track accident hot spots

(WPRI) — Traffic fatalities are up drastically nationwide but Rhode Island is bucking the trend.

Local police departments like Johnston are attempting to curb accidents and fatalities on high traffic roads like Route 6, a stretch of roadway that has seen a number of tragic accidents.

One of those crashes was a double fatal at a gas station at the corner of Rt. 6 and Bishop Hill Road. According to Rhode Island State Police, street racing and speed were factors in the crash.

“If you’re traveling east or west direction at 60 miles per hour and you collide with a vehicle traveling 60 or 70, the crash is 120 miles per hour. You will be severely injured,” said Lt. Joseph Salvadore of the Johnston Police Department, who added that handing out speeding tickets on roads like Rt. 6 re-enforces motor vehicle laws and reduces crashes and fatalities.

But officials say patrols can only do so much. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is making safety upgrades on roads with high accident rates.

Robert Rocchio, acting chief engineer for RIDOT told Eyewitness News they use data from crash sites to make critical improvements.

Eyewitness News has learned the worst places in the state for single-vehicle accidents or cars going off the road and hitting a pole are 95 North at the Pawtucket S-Curves, with 57 road departure crashes over the past five years.

By the Numbers: See the accident hot spots in RI »

Also, 295 North in Johnston near the Route 6 overpass, with 28 road departure crashes.

We’ve learned the most wrong-way accidents in the state occurred on Route 10 North in Providence near Reservoir Avenue, with 38 such crashes in a five-year span.

Rocchio said the third type is T-bone or right angle crashes that occur at intersections.

Pleasant Valley Parkway and Kinsley Street is at the top of RIDOT’s improvement list with 24 broadside or head-on crashes over five years.

“We constantly look at the crash data and once we determine where those types of crashes are happening, that’s where we come up with our lists,” Rocchio said.

Those lists tell engineers exactly where life-saving improvements can be made. They include expanding old roads, adding lanes, widening intersections and turn lanes.

Rocchio said striping, signs, and traffic signals are quick ways to increase safety at certain roadways.

Another problem – drunk and impaired driving.

Lt. Salvadore – a drug recognition expert – is trained to identify drivers who are impaired.

He told Eyewitness News a majority of the fatalities he responds to are speed related, alcohol and impaired drivers.

Rocchio said alcohol is involved in almost 40% of all fatal crashes.

RIDOT’s 10-year, $4.7 billion RhodeWorks initiative was created to not only fix roads and bridges but also to improve road safety.

Rocchio said RIDOT ranks projects based on the highest crash locations and cost.

Travel Guide: What to do if you encounter a wrong-way driver »

Another deadly issue — wrong-way driving.

“We found that there were 13 fatal crashes in a four-year period and there were a number of other incidents of wrong-way driving so we put out a project,” Rocchio said.

We’ve learned the top locations experiencing wrong-way driving are Route 10 Northbound at Route 2/Exit 3; Route 146 Southbound at 246; and Route 95 Northbound at Thurbers Avenue, Exit 18.

RIDOT’S projects included a new wrong-way driving detection alerting system.

“If a vehicle enters the wrong way on an off ramp, the signs would flash to warn them. If they ignore the sing and continue into a second detection zone it will send a picture of their car back to the management center and police will be contacted,” Rocchio said. “We will also place messages on overhead sings warning motorists of the potential of a wrong-way driver coming their way.”

Rocchio said RIDOT is constantly looking at data in an effort to keep drivers safe on local roads.