Wrong Way On A Newport One-Way

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There are two types of drivers who go against the grain.

In large part due to its Colonial past, Newport, RI has a lot of one-way streets. In large part due to it being a tourist destination, Newport also has a lot of people who drive the wrong way up those one-way streets. It can be a bit unsettling to see a car driving up the street facing all the parked cars heading for a potential head-on collision, but an experienced Newporter should know the two groups that these drivers typically fall into and the important differences between them.

1) The Unguided Out-Of-Towner

This driver has no idea what they’re doing. They’re just desperately trying to get to their bed-and-breakfast or wedding or the Ocean Drive or wherever and have found themselves unable to read street signs. If they’re completely disoriented, they may be crawling along at about 7 mph as they work out why all the parked cars are facing them, while the street signs are not. Their slow speed means that the window of opportunity that they may come face to face with a car driving the correct way down the street is larger. They can typically be recognized by their white hair and the Mercury Grand Marquis they’re driving. Alternatively, they might be driving a tour bus.

Alternatively, they may be pumped full of Korbel and cocaine, in which case, they’re a little less concerned about their lack of directional awareness or their speed or the five cars they just sideswiped. These folks can typically be recognized by their late-model luxury car/SUV with a surprising amount of side damage and their New York plates , a tattoo sleave or by the house that their vehicle has come to rest in.

Newport will see a few of these drivers in April with a solid increase through May and June, a spike in July and then a slow trailing off through August and September.

2) The Newport Shortcutter

The second group of people driving the wrong way up a one-way knows exactly what they’re doing. They live in town and have just spent too much time sitting in traffic. They’ve taken a calculated gamble and worked out that it’s just going to be much faster to zip down Fair St. and pull into the parking spot at their apartment than it is to have to have to wait for a light at Memorial and again at Thames.

These will be moving with a purpose, right on the edge of recklessness (after all, what’s the point of taking your time when you’re taking a shortcut?).

The local shortcutter can be recognized by that purpose of movement. Everyone will gawk at them, especially the driver behind who watches them ignore a one-way sign with a “WTF?!?!” expression on their face…right into the point they crank the wheel and zip into their driveway. Then the locals will figure out what they’ve just seen, while the tourists are still anticipating a loud crash.

The local shortcutter can be recognized by their local vehicle. As a year-round Newporter, their license plates will be from Rhode Island (or Florida…or Connecticut…or New Jersey). They’re also likely to be a 20-something man if only because more established gentlemen know (and can afford) not to rent a place that takes two left turns at stoplights to get to.

Don’t be that guy.

It’s one thing to zip up a side street between Thames and Spring. Heading the down Church and taking a right onto upper Thames is a great way to meet the Newport Police Department. We have seen cars drive northbound on Thames and make it all the way to Marlborough unscathed, but all who witnessed it were dumbfounded.

There was a time before GPS when Newport’s signage needed improvement and it was very easy to accidentally find oneself on the wrong one-way street. Now, in the 21st century, there’s a lot less of an excuse.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Traffic Correspondent

Tristan's just this guy, ya know?