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OPINION: Changing exit signs — and driving recklessly

While driving along Route 9 earlier this year, somewhere between Middletown and Old Saybrook I noticed they were changing the exit numbers. My response was somewhere along the lines of, what’s the point?

I got the answer to that question thanks to a recent Record-Journal story by Mary Ellen Godin, and the answer is an important one for those who travel the triangle of highways in and around Meriden, which adds up to a lot of drivers every day. Renumbering exits along Interstate 691 is part of an effort to make exit markers across the state line up with mile markers.

Why is this important? Well, if you are an area resident and know your way around it might not be necessary to consider such details while traveling the triangle, which includes Interstate 91 and Route 15 as well as I-691. But there are travelers every day who are not as familiar, and one of the issues, which can become important when it comes to reporting an emergency, is that they can have no idea where they are.

So, emergency crews can wind up on the wrong side of the road, for example. If a little exit renumbering helps the situation, why not?

This is part of a bigger picture. As the R-J reported, changing exit numbers goes with a project that includes “resurfacing, drainage upgrades, guiderail replacement, minor bridge work, lighting upgrades, new traffic cameras...” 

Along Route 9 the old numbers remained to help with the transition. That’s going on with I-691. “Let’s hope they keep the old exit numbers up,” said Joseph Feest, Meriden’s economic development director. “Any change is always confusing. We went through that when we changed the lanes downtown. We are a society that’s not used to change. It takes people time to change.”

It was interesting that under the exit number story on that day’s front page was a story out of Wallingford about how reckless driving is on the rise. You may have noticed drivers appear in a great hurry, for example, as though some collective anxiety has us all gearing up for the Indy 500.

“Obviously we’ve all seen post-COVID that the traffic behavior, the driving behaviors of individuals, not just respective to Wallingford but the entire state and country, has progressively gotten worse.” So said Police Chief John Ventura to the Wallingford Town Council.

Interesting also was Ventura’s description of efforts to get drivers to slow down. Those include speed trailers that show you how fast you’re going as you go by, and digital speed signs. You would want drivers to take such information as a safety reminder, but that isn’t how it always works out.

“What ends up happening when you utilize that type of traffic measurement is that people try to intentionally make that number look pretty high,” said Ventura.

“We have had a traffic box on Route 68 get to 132 mph,” he said. “People do attempt to play around, which is extremely dangerous because it is something that can cause serious injury.”

How to get drivers to behave on the road has been an issue as long as drivers and roads, I suppose.

The effort to improve traffic conditions along the Meriden triangle is long overdue. The connection between Covid and frantic driving will likely take a while to sort out as well.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.



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