Driving is inherently dangerous – even for those who follow all traffic laws. But when someone accidentally drives the wrong way down a street or highway, the results can be catastrophic.
Wrong-Way Crashes Prove Highly Fatal
Although only three percent of all wrecks are wrong-way accidents, they are the leading type of fatal motor vehicle accident. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that this fatality rate is projected at somewhere between 12 and 27 percent higher than other types of motor vehicle accidents. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), these types of accidents account for anywhere between 300 and 400 fatalities each year.
Most wrong-way driving accidents are head on, causing extensive, ongoing, serious injuries, if not death. Some of the most common injuries that occur include broken bones, whiplash, injuries of extremities, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, chest, abdomen, rib injuries, brain injuries, and even paralysis.
Common Causes of Wrong-Way Accidents
The most common cause of wrong-way accidents is driver error. This often occurs due to drivers entering highway exit ramps. This is often caused by:
- DUI (alcohol or medications)
- Drowsy/tired drivers
- Distracted driving
- Drivers unfamiliar with the local roadways
- Poorly marked/designed ramps
- Poorly placed/Absence of signs
- Lack of visibility
- Drivers suffering from mental health issues
Most wrong-way driving accidents occur on weekends and in the late hours of the night, between midnight and three in the morning. This is most likely related to the fact that 50-75 percent of wrong-way drivers are intoxicated.
Ramp Design Contributes to Accidents
Cloverleaf and partial cloverleaf ramp designs often cause drivers – especially those who are not fully alert – to enter the incorrect ramp on the wrong side, because the entrance and exit ramps are parallel. Drivers turning left to enter a highway are more likely to enter the incorrect ramp since those turning right will come to the correct ramp first.
Ways to Best Protect Yourself
Though these accidents can be difficult to avoid, there are things that can be done to protect you. The most important thing that drivers can do to is to be fully alert at all times. This means avoiding anything that may prove distracting (e.g. phone usage). Traveling in the right lane whenever possible is also helpful, as according to a study by the NTSB, seven out of nine wrong-way accidents occur in the lane closest to the median.
If you are lucky enough to avoid a wrong-way driver, it is important to pull off the roadway and contact 911 as soon as possible to alert police of the driver. This may help to warn other motorists and avoid serious potential accidents.
Fixing a Serious Problem
Certain strategies have been implemented by states in effort to reduce the number of wrong-way accidents. These include:
- Flashing “wrong way” signs
- Better lighting
- Concrete structures or spikes to prevent entrance onto exit ramps.
- Additional wrong-way warning signs and painted arrows
- Doing away with cloverleaf designs
While these new attempts to reduce the incidents of wrong-way driving have not changed everything, they have been somewhat successful; incidents decreased by 30 percent after Rhode Island installed signs and new technology.
Columbia Car Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Represent Victims of Wrong Way Wrecks
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a wrong-way crash, it is important to retain experienced legal counsel. The Columbia car accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. can help. Contact us online or call us at 803-929-3600 or 866-881-8623 for a free consultation.
We proudly represent injured accident victims in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.