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How Can We Make Montville’s I-395 Safer?

Increased enforcement and infrastructure changes are not likely to happen to Interstate 395 in Montville, according to officials, despite three fatalities in recent years.

Interstate 395 in Montville has been the site of three fatal accidents in recent years, two of which occurred last year. 

According to WTNH, on May 9, 2012, Edwina Maryenski, 73, of Uncasville, was driving in the left lane on I-395 south at exit 79A when her vehicle drifted to the left, into the center median, across two lanes of traffic, and through the exit 79A on-ramp and crashed into the guardrail. 

In March 9, 2012, Norwich firefighter Benjamin Demond, 33, died after getting struck by Willis Goodale, 50, of Groton, who was intoxicated when he used the emergency turnaround south of the Troop E State Police facility.

On March 7, 2009, Elizabeth Durante, a 20-year-old Connecticut college student, was killed when she was struck by Daniel Musser, 24, an intoxicated Navy sailor, driving the wrong way.

The cause of the latter two accidents was being under the influence, which was also the cause of 11 crashes and 7% of accidents from 2009 to 2011, between exits 79 and 79A, according to figures reported in The Day which came from the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

There were 149 crashes during that time with 2 fatalities and 118 with property damage only.

The number one cause of crashes was the driver losing control which happened in 41 crashes, or 27.5% while following too close came in second with 28 crashes or 19%. The third highest crash cause was improper lane changes which occurred in 20 crashes or 13% while speeding happened in 19 crashes of 12.75%. 

Kevin Nursick, spokesman for the Connecticut DOT, told the newspaper that it is a low rate of serious crashes given this stretch of road has a daily volume between 45,100 and 56,100 vehicles.

"There's no pattern and based on what we're seeing, no indication of similar occurrences other than basic driver error," Nursick said. "The numbers don't show a pattern or trend correctable by infrastructure changes."

After the March 2012 accident, the closure of the emergency turnarounds on I-395 were discussed as a possible solution as several travelers have witnessed emergency vehicles make unsafe maneuvers cutting into traffic or abruptly stopping in the left lane, without signalizing, to use the turnaround.

Many travelers have seen first-hand the dangerous drivers who merge onto I-395 North from the Montville Connector (Route 32) without properly yielding forcing traffic already on the roadway to move to the left lane to avoid them. This is especially problematic for travelers who want to remain in the right lane to leave the highway at exit 79.  

The newspaper also talked to Michael J. Thomas, the state police master sergeant at Troop E and paraphrased his statement by reporting that “while police look at data to determine higher enforcement zones, the area has yet to become an issue”.

When a fatal accident occurred near the I-95 and I-395 interchange in East Lyme, enforcement was increased, even if just for a brief period of time. At one point, a portable unit even reminded travelers of their speed.

Weary travelers and fatigued truck drivers will soon be able to take a break once again on Interstate 395 Southbound as the Montville Service Plaza is expected to reopen this summer. 

Should infrastructure changes be made to I-395 in Montville or enforcement increased to combat unsafe drivers?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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