An elderly man driving the wrong way on a Massachusetts highway caused a major crash that left him dead and injured five other people, officials said.
Massachusetts State Police spokesman Dave Procopio told The Associated Press that the accident occurred on Nov. 21 at 11:30 p.m. on Interstate 495 in Taunton.
The driver, 84-year-old Arnold Reda of Foxborough, was southbound when his car hit two others, CBS Boston reported. Near Exit 13, he made a U-turn and then began driving south in the northbound lanes.
When his Toyota Camry hit the two other vehicles, it caused one to burst into flames. AP reported that the Reda was pronounced dead at the scene.
The others who were injured included two boys aged 10 and 12. None of their injuries are life-threatening, CBS reported.
Procopio told AP that police have not figured out how the driver ended up on the wrong side of the highway.
“The driver of the Toyota was the sole occupant of that vehicle. The two other drivers and four passengers in the two struck vehicles were transported to area hospitals by ambulances with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening,” said the Taunton Fire Department in a statement.
Reda slammed his Toyota into a 2016 Mercedes GL450 that was being driven by a 56-year-old man who had three people in the vehicle wit him. A 42-year-old woman and the two boys were in the car, Turnto10.com reported.
The adults were transported to Rhode Island Hospital, while the children were taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
The Camry also hit a 2003 Lincoln Towncar, driven by a 58-year-old woman who had a passenger in the vehicle. The driver was not injured, but the passenger was.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts State Police, Norton Fire Department, MassDOT, and Taunton Police responded. Norton Fire, Easton Fire, and Brewster Ambulance Service all sent ambulances to the crash as well.
The interstate shut down entirely between exits 9 and 10 for several hours. It was later reopened.
Traffic Deaths Down in 2018
U.S. traffic deaths fell 3.1 percent in the first six months of 2018, according to preliminary figures released in October.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reported that for all of 2017 traffic deaths fell by 1.8 percent to 37,133 after traffic deaths rose sharply in the previous two years, according to final figures.
The U.S. traffic fatality rate fell to 1.08 deaths per 100 million miles traveled for the first half of 2018. The fatality rate in 2017 was 1.16 million deaths per 100 million miles traveled—the second highest rate since 2008.
The Governors Highway Safety Association noted that a strong economy usually correlates with an increase in traffic deaths “so this drop, while small, is encouraging news.”
NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King said the agency is looking at a variety of factors to explain the reduction. Automakers are adding more crash avoidance features to vehicles to help warn motorists of a potential crash or slow a vehicle “and we’re very hopeful that will continue to be part of a trend,” King said.
The agency said over the last four decades the general downward trend in vehicle deaths is attributed to a variety of factors including increased seat belt use, reduced impaired driving, and features like air bags and electronic stability control.
The only increase in traffic death categories in 2017 was a 9 percent jump in deaths involving large trucks, including tractor-trailers. Deaths among truck drivers increased 16 percent. Officials noted that a growing U.S. economy means more freight is traveling on U.S. roads, one factor in the increase.
Deaths involving the largest trucks above 26,000 pounds rose by 3.8 percent in 2017.
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Reuters contributed to this report.