While You’re At It, Governor...
Sometimes amidst all the political machinations a sitting governor must tolerate, that individual — in our case Governor Ned Lamont — also needs to remember in some ways, he has power over life and death. This fact is clear from his high-profile promotion of a new campaign to better protect the motoring public from wrong-way drivers.
This contemporary phenomenon that State Senator Tony Hwang recently pointed out, which includes 13 wrong-way crashes resulting in 23 deaths last year, compared to four wrong-way crashes in 2021 and two in 2020, must be addressed. So far this year, the deadly trend is continuing, sadly taking the life of Hwang’s vibrant colleague — State Rep Quentin Williams — along with killing the 27-year-old woman who was operating the car traveling in the wrong direction that killed the lawmaker.
At a March 10 press conference, Lamont announced a new CT DOT public awareness campaign on the dangers of wrong-way driving as part of a larger strategy of addressing the recent escalation of these crashes and deaths.
At the same time, the state will step up installation of wrong-way driving technology already in place at key locations, using motion sensors to detect a vehicle entering a highway exit ramp from the wrong direction and rapidly flashing bright lights to notify an operator they are driving the wrong way.
While it is certain this effort has the potential to save lives — dozens, maybe hundreds over time — it is ironic that at the same time, the governor may be influencing the elimination of another effort that has the potential to save thousands of Connecticut lives every year.
According to the American Cancer Society, Connecticut is going to lose almost 6,500 of us to that dreaded disease, with a significant number attributed to smoking and tobacco use. So why would Lamont be acting to eliminate a huge proportion of funding for tobacco control programs that are not even being funded by Connecticut taxpayers, but by a historic 1998 settlement with big tobacco that will eventually provide our state up to $5 billion?
Earlier this month, Lamont proposed a 50 percent cut over the next two years to the state’s Tobacco Health and Trust Fund (THTF). To further the irony, less than 24 hours before the formal rollout of the “One Wrong Move” wrong-way driver program, a public hearing was held to address this and other proposed cuts.
Natalie Shurtleff, Connecticut grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), reminds us that cuts proposed by Lamont would be the 84th time the THTF has been swept, cut, reduced, or redirected over the past 21 years. Shurtleff says fact-based, statewide tobacco prevention and cessation programs funded by the Big Tobacco settlement equip people with the tools to stop using tobacco, educate on the negative health outcomes associated with tobacco products, and help dismantle the systemic disparities perpetuated by the tobacco industry.
So Governor Lamont, as you’re touting traffic safety and technology that will save a comparative fraction of Connecticut lives, while you’re at it, why not make one right move and maintain Connecticut’s Tobacco Health and Trust Fund that will help save thousands of additional lives we’re losing to tobacco-related cancer and other diseases?