2013-10-24 / Opinion

You Could Be the Next Person Killed on the Pell

To the Editor:

Nearly two years ago, two people were killed on the Pell Bridge. Public officials need to be held accountable.

My brother, Kenny, was afraid to cross the Pell Bridge on his way to work and back. He frequently told me the bridge was “scary,” people drove too fast on it, and there was no escape from “crazy” drivers. Unfortunately, Kenny was right. On the night of Oct. 21, 2011, Kenny was on his way home to Jamestown from his job on the Navy base. He and his friend and co-worker, Kathy Meunier, who was driving him home, were hit head-on by a teenage driver from Middletown.

After the horrific crash that killed my brother and his friend, we contacted the Rhode Island authorities asking for an explanation and a copy of the official accident report. Several months later, we finally met with Jay Sullivan of the Attorney General’s office in Providence. We were shown a video of the crash and were told that the Rhode Island State Police and the Attorney General’s office were still investigating. Sullivan promised to provide us with a full accident report on the crash.

After months of delay, the Attorney General decided not to bring criminal charges for reckless driving. The driver eventually pled guilty to traffic violations of speeding and driving on the wrong side of the bridge.

Ironically, the social service agency which assisted use with Kenny is called "Bridges." Kenny said to me shortly before he was killed, “Bridges wants me to be a role model. How can I be a role model?” His social workers at Bridges were probably thinking about how Kenny could teach their other handicapped clients woodworking. I think Kenny and Kathy Meunier can be another kind of role model now. We need to demand that the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) install a median barrier on the Pell Bridge now. Buddy Croft, the Executive Director of RITBA, was quoted by the Jamestown Press in August of 2012 as saying: “One death on the roadway is too many.” What does RITBA consider two deaths to be? It is time for RITBA to act now.

We believe a barrier could have saved Kathy and Kenny’s lives. We think a barrier could save your life the next time you cross the bridge.

So what can each of you do to save lives on the Pell Bridge? You can and should do several things: demand that RITBA, the State Police and the Attorney General rigorously enforce the speed limit on the bridge. It is not that hard. With today’s technology, a transponder can track the speed of every car crossing the bridge. Anyone speeding can be ticketed and fined just like toll evaders. RITBA has the technology to do this.

Demand that RITBA, the State Police and the Attorney General rigorously enforce the laws banning texting while driving. The public relations campaign to “Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks” needs to be more than simply lip service.

Demand that RITBA stop stalling and install a median barrier on the bridge. Now!

Please consider joining in a campaign against distracted driving, and make sure your loved ones understand the terrible harm that a distracted driver can cause.

You can make a difference by writing to RITBA and the others responsible for our safety and making your voice heard.

You can start by writing to David Darlington, the Chairman of RITBA, and Buddy Croft, the Executive Director, at One East Shore Rd., Jamestown, RI 02835. Better yet, email them immediately at ddarlington@ritba.org and buddy@ritba.org. Please do not delay. Do it today. The life you save could be your own.

David Prior Brother of the late Ken Prior

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