Close Encounters on the Highway with a Pipeline to God

Donna's car

As one of the 3.5 million or so commuters headed to work in the State of Connecticut, we know the risks as drivers, the inherent “bad spots,” the bottlenecks in traffic, the “It’s a parking lot and I have no choice” areas…and the potentially deadly zones when the “unexpected but perfect storm” is created.

As a driver with an unblemished record in my home state for many years never did I think that I would have the close encounter that I experienced last week! Sometimes, when you have as much perceived tragedy racked up as I over the years – 59 surgeries, a paternal homicide, etc.; you think that your “dance card” was filled long ago. Surely, God would not re-visit this person with more tragedy. You may get a false sense of security along with your vulnerabilities.  Despite super resiliency, it’s just not fair to fill my card anymore!  And then it happens out of the blue, without warning or responsibility on your part – BAM!

One of the most dangerous and potentially deadly traffic spots on our highway is the area prior to the Samuel Colt Historic Building (With the blue and gold-starred dome) on the left driving on Interstate 91 North with the Connecticut River on your right. Read this lengthy, but informative 2015 Connecticut Crash Reportblue dome

In this area, if memory serves me correctly,  5 plus lanes converge with drivers madly trying to go over a bridge in an easterly direction from Route 15, one lane to go West as you proceed north on Interstate 84, and two lanes to continue north on 1-91. Typically, in this area is an underpass with the bright sun to the east to contend with as well.   I have traveled this route for many years, gingerly expecting the routinely rude drivers, (Speeders, lack of signals, passing on the right etc.).

But, while I am carefully merging one lane over at a very low rate of speed and a car comes out of nowhere on your right at about 80 mph- wildly cutting across 5 lanes of traffic (to gain maybe 2 seconds) to ultimately continue north and hitting my right front fender – heading north without slowing or stopping, it was a freaking miracle that I maintained control of my car, did not hit anyone else, nor sustained any bodily injury.

The perp’s car was a later model red sporty, perhaps a Ford with a spoiler on the back with a green license plate (denoting the State of Vermont). He whizzed by me like Mario Andretti, went under the highway in the 84 West lane and then back up onto 91 North in the same direction I was headed to work, just a mile or so away.  I could not stop at the point of impact (even though the first Trooper on the phone yelled at me for not doing so) near the Colt’s Building, as I would have been struck with no breakdown lane to call the police. So, I tried to engage in a little careful pursuit to get more info on the car. However, three of four cars separated us in heavy traffic and I neither could get closer nor obtain his number! The second best option was to proceed to work, as it was still drivable and call the State Police. How very arrogant, irresponsible, and utterly prosecutable the perp was if I was able to get closer!  I was informed that if a license plate number was obtained then they could go after the person, but without it, forget about it! GRRRR!

I examined about 20 CCTV cameras on the DOT’s website and was horrified to learn that there is no camera directly located in this very perilous area. The closest cameras to the point of impact may be CCTV #84 at this link “….Be advised that the Department’s traffic cameras are used for live monitoring of traffic. No traffic camera recordings are available for disclosure because no  recordings exist.” 

What? A lot of Government gobbledygook!  Do you mean to tell me that if by chance, there was a camera there and someone happened to be monitoring at the moment, maybe I would have stood a chance in hell to identify the perp?  A colleague who worked previously for the DOT told me that it would be very unusual for the agency to pursue unless there was a fatality! (So they can’t use this technology because they can’t record?  So what good is it??)  Adding insult to injury, I learned  from my insurance company that I  may have to be my own car adjuster with a third-party tech company in order to download an app and take several photos (with incomplete directions, not accounting for different types of phones, despite some phone support!) What a mess! Although my “car wound” is not terrible for its age, in this instance, it is the principle of trying to get a modicum of justice!

If I am going to die, or nearly so, I will not go quietly, as this person has damaged my psyche and increased my vulnerabilities! That is also unforgivable for a crime victim!  As our Governor has proudly touted his efforts to improve our overall transportation system in many ways, this “highway purgatory location” apparently has been virtually ignored for years!

I placed a called to the DOT’s Commissioner’s Office who referred me on to the Bureau Chief of Highway Operations & Maintenance in order to tell my story and to advocate for this to be one of the future transportation projects to be addressed. Return call pending…

Thank you, God, for not taking me yet. I have about 30 good years left, hopefully!

Addendum:  About a week after the incident, I contacted an Administrator in the Department of Highway Operations & Maintenance following an initial call to the Commissioner’s office.   My call was referred to a Traffic Engineer 3. We discussed the fact that the data showed there were 104 crashes beginning in 2015 through September 2016; 79- fender benders, 17 minor injuries, 8 with fractures, thankfully no fatalities (perhaps because of the relatively slow speed most people use while changes lanes.)   However, the driver who hit me, I am guessing was travelling about 80 mph and gave my car a glancing blow in an attempt to overcorrect as he wildly cut across all lanes without ever slowing down! Reportedly,  this entire “spaghetti system of merging routes” is on the “slow track for change” to begin in five years! This does me and others no good as daily commuters in the meantime.

I brought up the he possibility of placing another monitoring camera just beyond the underpass in which all of the various routes merge in crossing traffic in an effort to provide some monitoring.  This request is supposed to be sent up the chain of command. Due to the engineer’s other responsibilities and project deadlines, it has not been addressed to date and remains very hazardous for all travelers, particularly those  who are unfamiliar with the area.   I thank the DOT for appearing to take somewhat of an  interest and trying to do a temporary fix in the future.   I hope they are not just “giving lip service.”

It would have been far more satisfying for me if this perpetrator could have been caught and prosecuted.    BOTTOM LINE, THE REAL SOLUTION IS DRIVER RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY!  As members of the public we must all take an active role to hold people accountable as the police can’t be everywhere, nor can a state agency solve all  the ills of society.

I am confident that “the squeaky wheel will get the grease” in some way, because that’s just how Ladyjustice rolls….  I’ll keep you posted.




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