I-Team: Maine college student talks about wrong-way crash that nearly killed him
STATEWIDE (WGME) - A Maine college student is talking about the crash that nearly killed him.
Police say 19-year-old Tristan Kaldenberg was hit two months ago by a wrong-way driver on I-95.
"I'm glad it was me rather than so many other people who saw the guy going down the highway and almost got hit by the same guy. They might not have been as lucky as me," Kaldenberg said.
As Kaldenberg is recovering, we found this is one of dozens of wrong-way crashes on Maine's roads over the last decade.
"If that can't take me out, nothing can," Kaldenberg said.
According to crash data we reviewed from the Maine Department of Transportation, since 2003, 43 crashes involving wrong way drivers happened on Maine roads. Nine people were killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board told us about 400 lives are lost every year because of wrong-way driving crashes.
A report from the NTSB says wrong-way crashes like this one are "much more likely to result in fatal and serious injuries than other types of highway accidents."
In fact, the NTSB reports, the fatality rate for wrong-way collisions is 27 times higher.
Now the I-Team discovers the state is taking action to stop wrong way drivers.
"It's a huge problem when you think of it. You're driving down the interstate and you don't think anybody is going to be coming the opposite way," said Steve Landry, MDOT traffic engineer.
Landry said it's a serious problem in Maine, getting serious attention.
MDOT is now testing possible solutions to put the brakes on wrong-way crashes.
Landry said they're putting reflective arrows closer to on and off ramps, showing drivers where to go and where not to go.
The DOT is also adding more signs and lowering signs so they're easier to see.
Because state police say almost every wrong way crash in Maine has involved an elderly or impaired driver, Landry said, they need to do more.
"If they do make the wrong turn, catch them there," he said.
To do that, they're trying out new thermal cameras, at a test location in Freeport. The cameras detect engine heat to alert the DOT and state police of cars headed the wrong way.
Eventually, they'll be able to alert you, too.
"We can feed those message boards with the information so we can tell someone that 4 miles, 10 miles or 20 miles that there's a wrong way driver on the interstate," Landry said.
Tristan Kaldenberg is hoping to return to school this fall.
Police say they suspect the 70-year-old driver who hit Kaldenberg was intoxicated and disoriented, but they say the investigation continues and no charges have been filed.
Highway safety experts say if you do see a wrong way driver, you should stay to the right.
Typically wrong way drivers are in the fast lane because to them that's the correct lane with traffic on their left.