In the wake of the fatal crash that killed five young adults, necn Investigates has found at least eight other wrong way crashes in Massachusetts this year. Four of those crashes in just the last month. Questions are mounting on social media such as Facebook and Twitter questioning why are there so many crashes and what’s wrong in Massachusetts? necn Investigates took the issue to state leaders.
Drive the wrong way in neighboring states like Rhode Island the warning is loud and clear. Flashing lights and highway signs warn drivers there they are going the wrong way. Keep going the wrong way, and other drivers are warned via digital highway signs. One year into the $2 million federally funded pilot program, Rhode Island officials confirm to necn Investigates all the wrong ways they’ve monitored have corrected themselves. There have been no deaths. Bob Rocchio of Rhode Island Department of Transportation says, "If a vehicle enters an off-ramp in the wrong direction, the wrong-way signs will flash."
Each of the flashing signs cost $25,000. But for just a few hundred dollars, Massachusetts lowers wrong way and do not enter signs to driver eye level to be seen more clearly. necn Investigates took the issue to the head of Mass Dot. Tom Tinlin, Highway Administrator for MASS DOT says, "Some of these warning systems when they go off by the time the warning system goes off with the response time there could be a lag there as well." When necn Investigates questioned if it was a matter of expense and budget, Tinlin told us "No, look, you don’t put a price on public safety and I appreciate the question but if there was some technology we thought would make it a safer roadway that would benefit the public we would not let the price get in the way."
In Massachusetts there have been eight wrong way crashes in seven months. Eleven people have died: two in Mansfield, one in Southborough, three in Westport and now the latest of five in Middleboro. Tinlin says, “By all indications in the accident from last night the signage was where it needed to be. Somebody avoided it.”
Off and on ramps in some areas sit right next to each other confusing some Massachusetts drivers. So, in the last year Massachusetts lowered 350 "wrong way" signs.
"So far we haven’t found anyone who has said there was no sign there, I didn’t know, I thought it was an on ramp," Tinlin said.
State officials say wrong way drivers are also typically drunk drivers.
State safety experts say the best way to protect yourself from wrong way drivers is to wear your seat belt. Turns out Massachusetts is the bottom of the barrel, ranked 48th for only 78 percent of motorists wearing safety belts. One woman says on Facebook an officer actually told her drive in the right lane because wrong way drivers will be coming down the left lane.