Will The Death Of The Lawmaker Spur Action On Traffic Safety: A leader of the legislature’s transportation panel suggested that the death of a Connecticut state representative who was killed when his car was struck by a wrong-way driver early on Thursday morning could rekindle debate about road safety and rules against driving while intoxicated.
Just hours after lawmakers were sworn in for another term, Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams, a 39-year-old Democrat from Middletown, died suddenly in a head-on accident, leaving his friends and colleagues in shock and grief.
On Route 9 in Cromwell, a different car being driven by Manchester resident Kimede Mustafa, 27, struck Williams’ car from the wrong side. State police said that both drivers were pronounced deceased at the site.
The incident fit into a pattern that led state officials to approve $20 million in bonding last July to start implementing a few preventative measures like flashing beacon warning systems at more than a dozen locations throughout the state. The intention was to warn cars who were going to take a one-way road in the incorrect direction.
Nine of the initiatives have been finished by the state Transportation Department, and the installation of countermeasures has started at seven additional places.
The news about the passing of State Rep. Q Williams is absolutely devastating, and I am incredibly saddened by this tragedy. Quentin had an infectiously optimistic personality and he absolutely loved the opportunity to represent his lifelong home of Middletown at the Capitol.
— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) January 5, 2023
The projects are being undertaken as the incidence of fatal wrong-way incidents has increased dramatically. According to figures provided by the DOT, there were 13 car accidents involving wrong-way driving in Connecticut last year, which resulted in 23 fatalities. In the meantime, wrong-way collisions claimed the lives of four individuals in 2021 and four persons in 2020. In 2019 there were 11 fatal wrong-way driving incidents.
Rep. Roland Lemar, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the state Transportation Committee, referred to Williams on Thursday as a true friend rather than merely a coworker or political ally. Lemar, who has spent his time in the assembly fighting for safer traffic laws, said the passing of his buddy hit him particularly hard.
“All of these deaths could have been avoided. The difficult part is that Lemar stated. “We have anticipated every single one of these tragedies over the past few years. Even though I am horrified and saddened by each one, we have witnessed the number of fatalities increasing.
Williams’ passing comes after a year in which pedestrian fatalities due to driving rose to an all-time high. A new pedestrian safety regulation was passed thanks in part to Lemar’s efforts just two years ago, but he claimed on Thursday that the legislature frequently lacked the political will to address traffic safety head-on.
Lemar expressed his hope that the legislature would support strong legislation in the upcoming session to discourage wrong-way drivers and penalize more severely intoxicated drivers, who he claimed are frequently the cause of wrong-way collisions.
Lemar stated, “Building the will to do serious stuff on all of these [traffic] safety issues has taken too long. “We need to do a better job of re-educating our populace and punishing people who are intoxicated on our roadways more severely,” said the speaker. “We need to talk more firmly about, not just the wrong way drivers.”
The State Bond Commission heard testimony from Garrett Eucalitto, the current commissioner of transportation, in July, who stated that the statistics at hand indicated that around 80% of wrong-way crashes involved an inebriated driver.
According to 2021 research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drunk driving was the single most contributing factor in about 60% of wrong-way crashes nationally. Older drivers and solo driving were two additional contributing factors. The committee suggested policies to discourage drunk driving, as well as more obvious traffic signs and driver reeducation programs.
The state Vision Zero Council, an interagency council on decreasing traffic-related deaths and injuries that was established by the 2021 pedestrian safety law, recently suggested a number of initiatives, including refresher training for senior drivers. Additionally, the group advocated for Connecticut to join the majority of other states in outlawing open alcohol containers in vehicles.
Lemar stated that his panel will be carefully examining traffic safety regulations this session and expressed the hope that the death of a colleague this past week would persuade other lawmakers to follow suit.
Lemar expressed his hope that this would result in people finally taking seriously the safety precautions that must be taken in order to protect all users. We must continue to step up our efforts since this issue affects families throughout Connecticut, including our family in the legislature.