CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — Traffic was backed up for hours Monday morning as crews responded to a crash involving a wrong-way driver on I-295 in Cumberland.
The crash occurred just before 8:30 a.m. in the area of Exit 20 (Mendon Road), according to Rhode Island State Police.
Lt. Jeff L’Heureux said the driver veered into the center median from the northbound side of the highway then entered the southbound lanes and collided head-on with another vehicle. He said it appeared the crash was caused by a medical issue.
Both drivers were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Additionally, a third car and a tractor-trailer were involved in a second crash while trying to avoid the wrong-way driver, according to L’heureux. He said the car sideswiped the tractor-trailer, but no one was hurt.
The center and right lanes of I-295, along with the right shoulder, were temporarily blocked but have since been reopened.
Charles St. Martin III, a spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Transportation, said the agency has taken steps to reduce the occurrence of wrong-way driving, which include installing wrong-way driving detection systems at 24 “high-risk ramps” and adding more signs and striping at more than 200 highway ramps throughout the state.
The detection systems have been activated nearly 400 times since their installation in 2015, according to St. Martin, and there has been just one wrong-way crash at those two-dozen locations and no fatalities. In the five years prior, there were 13 deaths in 10 crashes, St. Martin said.
“We cannot comment on the details of this most recent crash, but RIDOT constantly evaluates crash data from police departments throughout Rhode Island to determine if any changes can be made to further improve safety,” he added.
Visit RIDOT’s website to learn more about wrong-way crash prevention.
NOTE: This story was updated after police provided new information about the events leading up to the crash.