Accidents Happen

“You should write about all the automobile accidents in Westport,” an “06880” reader wrote.

Why? I wondered.  They happen with such regularity, they’re just a fact of life here.

Covering car crashes would be like blogging that “the sun rose in the east today,” or “a new women’s store opened on Main Street.”

But Wednesday’s 3-car accident grabbed my attention.

2 of the 3 cars involved in Wednesday's accident. The other vehicle was just as mangled. (Photo by Dave Matlow)

It was early afternoon.  Skies were clear.  The stretch of Main Street in front of Willowbrook Cemetery is straight and well-paved.

Yet somehow the driver of a Ford Taurus managed to smash into both a Pontiac and Mercedes.  The Taurus driver had to be extricated.

All 3 vehicles were totaled.

Readers of, which first reported the crash, weighed in.  One suggested speed was a factor.  Another figured cell phones.

I’m guessing both.

Is there any place in Westport that’s so important to get to that we have to drive like madmen (and women)?

Is there any reason for racing through every light and stop sign; tailgating every guy (and gal) ahead of us, and doing it all while yapping into a device glued with one hand next to our ear?

Driving past cemeteries is fine.  Ending up in one because some other Westporter (or New Yorker) thinks the world revolves around him (or her) is not.

I’m always amazed when parents bitch about the poor driving habits of teenagers.  Kids don’t grow up in vacuums.  They take their cues from everyone around them.

And they don’t start at 16.  That baby strapped in the car seat watches — and wants to mimic — everything you do.

A bumper sticker says:  “Shut Up And Drive.”


Do it at a normal rate of speed, too.

If not for me and you, do it for our kids.

And yours.

Photographer Dave Matlow captures the aftermath of Wednesday's crash -- on a clear day, along a very straight stretch of the road.

52 responses to “Accidents Happen

  1. Wow. How fast were they going to create that much damage?

  2. interested reader

    Great message, Dan and not just for Westport but what an image! Although I have to say, when we visit family and friends in Westport, and the northeast, the drivers’ aggression seems ratcheted up several notches but this is happening really everywhere — not unique to Westport, unfortunately. But maybe for a small town, it’s particularly noticeable. We have phone totin, latte sippin suv drivers who are so aggressive all over this country, and they cause accidents — major accidents and deaths every day. And the little darlins are observing these behaviors from the back seats. How could they know to act any differently? The minivan babies of the 1980’s who’s parents’ driving was mild by comparison to the suv babies of today, are now grown and driving their own little darlins and we’d all better watch out! This is a terrible image and so sad to see it.

  3. I use to go out for a drive to relax—-now I hope that I make it home safely, if I have to go out.
    No one pays attention to any of the rules! (stop signs, lights, speed limit, cell phones–the best is getting cut off when there doesn’t look like a car could possibly fit in the space in front of you. No one has to be in the correct lane—just fly by in the passing lane and cut right in!!)

  4. I was so happy that you started this conversation. My family recently moved to Westport and I have never seen so many people run through red lights. FYI, it doesn’t occur in NY possibly because people are more apt to get ticketed. The flagrant abuse of traffic lights is unique to Westport and unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere.

  5. This is something you’ve reported on previously, Dan, but this story really brings the issue front and center, again. I have lived here four years, and have been asking what can be done about the aggressive driving and blatant disregard for the law that I witness every day. I have a teenager behind the wheel now, and I live in fear of something happening to him. I don’t have the answers, but would surely like to see some action toward fixing this town-wide problem. After all, we know this is more than just our town, but we need to start close to home. Suggestions, anyone?

  6. Apparently, they’d rather risk having to pay a fine than waiting for the light turn green.

  7. Chip Stephens

    True story same day as accident above :
    Toyota A runs stop sign turning on hillspoint off greens farms Toyota B rages and follows horn blazing Toyota A pulls over so Totota B can pass and shoot the one finger salute. Toyota A then rages and PASSES Toyota B at 50 or better tires squeeling as they pass the daycare (Hillspoint School) and the two fly off towards Post Rd I would have taken plate #s but I would have to fly down the roat at I95 speeds It really would have sucked if a car full of kids was exiting the day care, but thats life on our roads!
    When is someone in charge going to read the blogs and realize the frustration and anger that exists in town about SPEEDING, Running lights (especially post rd- hillspoint-compo-and downtown) and SPEEDING and tweeting and SPEEDING…..

  8. In 92/93 I lived in Pittsford, NY. A very quaint upscale town, not unlike Westport a long time ago. They had a driver courtesy month which I found very amusing but a good idea. I checked their website and it is called Driver Safety Month now. I also remember this going back to the 70’s in Yorktown, NY where I grew up. There must have been a campaign of sorts to remind drivers of the dangers on the road. I could research this but I have to get back to my life. In kindness to all. An old-fashioned idea to some.

  9. It is amazing to me that everybody lived after that accident, judging by the looks of those cars.
    I drive through Southport on my way to work. There are two different intersections between the Post Road (in front of Peoples Bank) and the Southport Racquet Club. It is a rare day that I don’t see at least one SUV mom, often on the phone, blow through one of those stop signs.
    And, for anyone who needs a refresher, the law in Connecticut is “right turn on red light, AFTER COMING TO A FULL STOP.

  10. Hear! Hear! Maybe we van get the WPD to ticket more offenders. Would that help? I really hate all the horrible drivers listed in your article and the comments. I am literally afraid of the aggressive drivers and distracted drivers. We all see the texting, cell phone talking, make-up applying, coffee drinking aggressive drivers (some at the same time?!) Let’s change things!

  11. And in Ridgefield yesterday morning, a 16-year-old girl died in a one-car crash. Police say speed was a factor. So incredibly sad.

  12. Compo beach residents are very aware of speeding on Westport roads.
    The Compo Beach Improvement Association has presented a petition of
    many signatures to the First Selectman and the Chief of Police to enforce
    posted speed limits. The response has been very disappointing. Joggers, cyclists, walkers, walkers with dogs, mothers with strollers know they move with risk. We see drivers going double posted speed limits while talking on cell phones. Two girls on bikes fell over to avoid being hit. Two pillars, one stone, one brick, at private properties have been destroyed by speeding cars. Drivers roll through stop signs so that it has become the norm.

    question frequently asked here is “what are we waiting for? Someone to

  13. The Dude Abides

    Unfortunately, residents have been driving like maniacs in Westport for 50 years. For some reason, unknown to my pay grade, affluence seems to breed contempt for traffic laws and a culturiological need to be in a hurry. The police here have always looked the other way chosing to keep the peace rather than enforce the law. It is no wonder that more have not died. The only good news is that the best and brightest tell us that computers will drive cars in 20 years and without doubt,
    do a helleva better job than us humans.

  14. I grew up in Fairfield. When I got my drivers license in 1963 and was able to venture into Westport, the BIG word (from parents and kids alike) was: drive very carefully and watch out for Westport Cops; they will pull you over at the drop of a hat. I guess those guys have all retired?

    Now that I think of it, maybe the answer is to go back to standard transmissions. It would be impossible to text or talk and shift at the same time.

    • They’ll only pull you over if you drive a shitty car and have a dark skin tone.

      • Most residents would call the police if they saw a beat-up car driving in their neighborhoods at the wee hours of the morning. That’s what the Neighborhood Watches are all about.

        • That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about every time I see a car pulled over on Post Road it inevitably is driven by a minority.

    • The Dude Abides

      Ahh . . so you may not be too young for my Monica’s. I got my driver’s license on August 11, 1964 and on that day drove 110 mph down Greens Farms Road parallel to the turnpike. And my older brother’s class use to drag race down Roseville every Friday night. Your parents were fibbing to you about Westport cops although if you drive down the Post Road at around midnight now in a beat up car, you will be stopped. I call it DWP (driving while poor).

      • I went to Ludlowe. To us, Roseville Rd was always known as “Rollercoaster Hill” because, it seemed, at least once a year some Staples kid would be speeding up and around those hills and curves and end up wrapped around a tree. Mortally.

        And yep, Dude, I am old enough for your Monica’s. But I am a lady ;-).

        • The Dude Abides

          No offense intended, ma’am. Indeed, Staples class of ’66 lost 7 individuals its senior year. Many to traffic fatalities. Roseville was much narrower then and the ironic thing about it was that the State Police used to fly down that road from their barracks on the Post Road (Walgreens now) to get on the Merritt. They were, in fact, worse driving hazards than the dragsters at night.

          • Linda Gramatky Smith

            Until around 1993, at least every 6 months someone driving fast down the straight part of Roseville (going south towards where Colony Road is now) would miss the curve and plow into our stone posts. The late Homer Mills called it his “annuity policy” because my folks’ insurance would pay to have him rebuild the post(s). When my husband and I moved back to town, a kid slid into one post and the police said he survived only because of air bags in his car. OUR car didn’t have air bags at the time, and we were so afraid it would be a fatality sooner or later. Joe Arcudi was running for 1st Selectman and he brought Police Chief Chiaranzelli over and they discussed the solutions. The police chief suggested three huge yellow arrows that one can see as they drive south on Roseville, and thank God there haven’t been any horrific crashes since. A couple crashes from people sliding on the curve on newly fallen snow, but now drivers get a warning that “there is a big curve ahead so slow down!”

    • They all work in Fairfield now Holly.

  15. But how Jennifer? What’s the WPD’s position on this scourge? If I were a policeman, I could write a half a dozen tickets for violations I observe while doing errands around town during a 30 minute run. Why aren’t the police doing that or are their priorities elsewhere? Some have suggested reporting license plate numbers to the police but do they want us to do that and what action can they take? Should we demonstrate our disgust of violaters with a horn blow or a light flash? Or would that be a ticketable offense? More questions than answers but perhaps that’s the start of changing things.

    • An interesting sidenote, I am told that the monies from the traffic violations in Westport goes to the State of Connecticut. The town only enjoys revenue from parking tickets.

    • As much as we would all love to write down the license plate numbers of stupid drivers, police would be powerless to do anything. Think how many people would use that technique to get revenge.

      • Travis McGEE

        Yeah but you could use self-help and make their lives miserable. As Papa Kennedy said: “Don’t get mad, get even.” Perhaps we could recruit Westporter since 1970 here on the blog????

  16. Dan, Thank you for posting this piece. As you noted, car crashes occur so regularly that we tend to accept them as a fact of life. But we don’t need to. Unfortunately, as cars have become safer, some have been led to drive more dangerously because they feel overconfident their car can handle it and keep them safe–so-called risk compensation. Crashes, fatalities, & injuries nationwide have dropped only as improved safety equipment in cars have been combined with education and enforcement. So calls in the comments for an increased focus on these two elements are good ones.

    Additionally, there is a meaningful nationwide movement toward “complete streets” and “traffic calming”, which residents may want to educate themselves about and advocate for. Cities and towns that adopt these policies are making their streets safer for drivers, cyclist, and pedestrians, with studies showing complete streets are good for small businesses and real estate values. A good source for info is

  17. Someone has posted a bunch of videos on youtube showing people running red lights in Westport. Along with license plate info. Fairly amusing. Just search “Westport red light” on youtube and they come up. Here is one example:

  18. Maybe if drivers (unless DOA) were made to clean up after these messes there wouldn’t be so many messes. Just sayin,…

  19. Actually, it seems as though all the cops are worried about is pulling over teens (usually doing nothing wrong) and ticketing them for some interesting new teen driving laws

    • I don’ t think the police can catch a break. When they ticket young drivers, they are accused of not cutting them a break. When they don’t ticket them, they are accused of adding to the problem. I’d sure wouldn’t want to be a police officer!

      • Cops start at $56,000 here with a nice pension. Not shabby for sitting most of their time behind Willowbrook Cemetery.

        • I used to think that too, until I rode a shift with a police officer. It ain’t as easy as you think!

  20. As a biker, I find teen drivers as some of the most considerate drivers out there. However, the statistics (shown here on the blog) that 18% of Staples drivers have had a near accident while texting worries me and warrants police attention.

  21. People here do not care about paying the fines. It is not a lot of money to them, so they take a chance at getting caught. Someone told me once that they can park in a no parking spot, because their boss would pay for their ticket.
    I see so many of those large SUV’s in parking lots with dented corners–they don’t care about learning how to park either. There is always a new car coming and the person who trys to take care of their car ends up with digs and scratches.

  22. That is not true. Know many people that make 7 figures a year and do not like the price of a $200.00 speeding ticket. As for the cars, maybe. Most are leases and switch them out like spouses.

  23. Elisabeth Keane

    Dude, you commented on the possiblity of computers driving the cars 20 or so years hence. Could be. If there is artificial intelligence there likely is artificial stupidity so we’ll still have to watch out.

    • The Dude Abides

      Indeed, New York Times Magazine interviewed a techie that estimated that computers will drive cars in less than 20 years. Considering that some models now will parallel park your auto bettter than you now, not out of the realm of real possibilities and certainly safer.

  24. Howard Silver

    Why doesn’t Westport install Red Light Cameras throughout town? This system automatically takes a photo of the license plate of the car running a red light and sends a ticket to the individual who the car is registered to. Sure way to cut down accidents.

    • Red Light Cameras cause MORE accidents. (Google it yourself)

      Rear End Accidents that is.

      People slam on their brakes in fear of getting a Red Light Ticket and get rear ended.

  25. Arthur Champlin

    Good point, Howard. I have also wondered why they do not delay the red light with the opposing intersecting green. Many accidents are caused by someone who has run a red light and hits someone anxious for the green. A delay in the lights timing might help to avoid such accidents.

  26. I drove up to Woodstock, VT to visit a friend. HE told me:
    Everybody there drove the speed limits, because the police strictly enforced them. Admittedly, it’s pretty much a one road town and much easier to patrol.

    If we REALLY want to stop speeding:
    1. We need to reevaluate the Town & State speed limits. Many are old and too low, and are “intelligently ignored.” Today’s cars handle very well.
    2. Drive the speed limit yourselves. They can tailgate, but you set the pace. Have Miggs create a bumper sticker to ID citizens who have pledged not to speed.
    3. Have the Police set up REGULAR speed traps on the busy roads. They should be like snipers, shooting us with radar guns from random locations, scaring both us and the commuters into slowness.
    4. Request the State of CT to lengthen the green light time as have other States. By the time some of these textalkers wake up to the honking, only two cars can make the light and the next two drivers are so frustrated, they blow the red.
    5. Request the RTM Public Protection Committee to meet with any concerned citizens and the police chiefs to start the process. Tie it in with back-to-school.
    6. Buy a dozen more Harley’s ☺
    7. Put up signs as polite reminders:

    Anyway, that’s a start. I don’t tailgate, so that’s not me in your rearview mirror. It’s great following someone going the speed limit… I can back off and not be the “bad guy”… slowing the galaxy down by driving the speed limit.

  27. Route 4 in Woodstock is a long way from the Post Road in Westport as far as traffic is concerned however. I like the suggestions. Me? Give everybody a bike and forget the cars altogether. There is a health care solution too!

  28. Robert Crais

    My vast research indicates that Connecticut is very low in traffic fatalities. This is apparently attributable to the amount of snow, affluence (more expensive & safer cars) and an aging population.

  29. The laws need to be changed to allow points for driving infractions. I was told by a police officer that only monetary fines apply so there is little incentive for the self important drivers who believe they own the road to change their ways. If points were assigned and one was in danger of losing one’s license, we may begin to see compliance. We have a great town, but the worst, most discourteous drivers I’ve ever encountered.

  30. Introduce penalty points. The system works in the UK. Jump a light? 3 points on your license. Speed? 3 points. Use your phone at the wheel? 3 points. Once you reach 12 points you lose your license. Simple as.
    It’s the only thing that drivers really respond to: the threat of having their driving privileges removed.

    (“Furious driving” gets you 9 points).

    • The Dude Abides

      Except the lawyers would contest every point. This is litigous America, after all.

  31. Well that’s the problem. Drivers – with deep pockets – think they can always get away with it.