Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Rochester

Stopping Wrong Way Driving Crashes

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Rochester: Stopping Wrong Way Driving Crashes
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Police say Thomas Rome, 37, of Broome County was driving the wrong way down Route 490 on Saturday morning when he crashed head-on into a SUV occupied by Tatiana Tchekina and her husband, Oleh Krysa.

Tchekina, 69, was pronounced dead at the scene. Krysa, 71, suffered minor injuries.

Deputies say Rome smelled of alcohol when crews arrived, and charges are pending. He remains in guarded condition at Strong Hospital.

The New York National Guard confirms Rome is a captain in the 204th Engineer Batallion. He was deployed in a training team last year and recently returned home in the fall. He is headquartered in Binghamton.

"You need to be aware," said Lori Maher, public information officer with the NYS Department of Transportation.

This crash comes not long after another deadly wrong way accident. Robert Rector, who is also a member of the National Guard, pleaded not guilty to DWI and manslaughter charges. Police say Rector was driving the wrong way down Interstate 490 when he crashed into Khadijah McKenzie. McKenzie, 19, died from her injuries.

"The studies have shown over the years that half or even three quarters of the accidents of these wrong way types of accidents are involving people under the influence of alcohol," said Maher.

The National Transportation Safety Board did an investigation looking into wrong way collisions. It found that between 2004 and 2009, 60 percent of wrong way drivers had indications of alcohol involvement.

"I really need the public to meet us half way and drive responsibly," said Maher.

Maher said there are some measures they are taking to try to prevent these incidents from happening.

"The signs, you will see One Way signs, you will see Do Not Enter signs, multiples. You will notice pavement striping on the ground. The white line and the yellow line, sometimes you will see arrows. Also, the bank should be going the right way. It should feel uncomfortable if you are not going the right way," said Maher.

The Thruway Authority is also trying to prevent wrong way collisions. It installed signs on the Thruway that use doppler radar to detect a car going the wrong way and flashes warnings to turn around.

"That might be something we can look at in the future," said Maher.

The NTSB says some automakers are working on prototypes for sensor-based systems to be used in all new vehicles. One would measure the alcohol content exhaled inside the vehicle and another would measure the drivers BAC from the skin's infrared light absorption. In both cases, if the system detects alcohol above the legal limit, the vehicle will not start.

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