While there are many causes of wrong-way accidents, most boil down to bad decisions that are easily changed. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the most common reason wrong-way car crashes happen. When drivers travel the wrong way down a road, they put themselves, other motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists at risk of serious injuries and death. Wrong-way accidents are a leading cause of head-on collisions that claim between 300 and 400 lives per year. Most wrong-way accidents involve multiple fatalities.
Causes of Wrong-Way Accidents
Up to 75% of all wrong-way accidents involve a driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These substances reduce the driver’s ability to make proper decisions behind the wheel, and their negligence unduly puts other motorists at risk of injury or death.
However, drug or alcohol-impairment isn’t the only cause of wrong-way accidents. Drivers who are distracted can miss signs notifying them they’re turning onto a one-way street. Drivers who are unfamiliar with the area can become confused. And drivers with certain health problems may be disoriented.
Wrong-way accidents can also be caused by the poor placement of signs, missing signs, poorly designed off-ramps, and signs that are blocked by parked vehicles or greenery.
Avoiding a Wrong-Way Driver
Prevention is always the best way to survive a motor vehicle accident. Drivers should remain constantly alert for vehicles traveling the wrong day. This is especially important around “T” and 4-way intersections where a wrong-way driver can enter the flow of traffic.
On 4-lane highways, drivers should always travel in the right lane except when passing. Of course, most wrong-way accidents occur in the left lane on two-lane highways as oncoming vehicles attempt to overtake the vehicle in front of them. These situations happen quickly and highlight the importance of staying alert so that the appropriate avoidance strategy can be employed, whether that’s “going into the ditch,” pulling over and stopping, or swerving.
Design Changes Could Save Lives
Changing the design of roads could save lives and reduce wrong-way accidents. Placing barriers between divided highways and on city streets could deny access to a driver who attempts to travel the wrong way. Improved signage could more clearly explain traffic flow. Amending the designs of highway cloverleaf interchanges and other types of ramps could also limit the number of wrong-way accidents.