Were You Injured in a Wrong Way Auto Accident?
One of the most terrifying experiences a driver can face is driving down the highway at night only to see headlights headed straight toward them, driving in the wrong direction in their lane. Although this scenario is relatively rare, as only 3% of car accidents in the United States are the result of wrong-way driving (according to the National Transportation Safety Boards, or NTSB), these accidents can be particularly dangerous due to the severity of the injuries that a high-speed, head-on collision can cause. In fact, studies have shown that wrong-way driving accidents have a higher fatality rate than any other type of car accident, with a study in Virginia determining that the fatality rate of these accidents is 27 times higher than that of all other types of car accidents.
Thusly, while wrong-way accidents may seem like a rare occurrence, they still pose a serious threat to drivers, as the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that between 300 and 400 Americans are killed in wrong-way driving crashes each year. Yet, many drivers may be unfamiliar with the threat wrong-way drivers can pose, and you may find yourself wondering what causes wrong-way accidents, and if there is anything that you can do to protect you and your family on the road. To help get you started, here is a quick overview of what Florida drivers need to know about wrong-way car accidents.
What Causes Wrong-Way Accidents?
So how exactly do wrong-way accidents occur? Driver error is the most common cause of wrong-way accidents, as distracted, inebriated, or otherwise inattentive drivers can accidentally steer their vehicle into the opposite direction of travel, causing them to collide with cars traveling the correct direction. In recent years, much scrutiny has gone into researching exactly why wrong-way collisions occur, and the most common causes discovered include:
Research from the NTSB has demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of wrong-way collisions were the result of intoxicated driving. In fact, the number one cause of fatal wrong-way driving crashes has been alcohol use, with the NTSB finding that more than half, and as many as three-quarters, of wrong-way drivers are impaired by alcohol. Additionally, nearly 60% of these incidents of drunk driving involved drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) levels at or above 0.15, which is nearly twice the legal limit in Florida of 0.08.
Unsafe Driving Conditions
Driving conditions have also been found to be a large contributing factor toward wrong-way accidents. Poor weather conditions that reduce visibility can cause drivers to inadvertently enter the wrong lane, and lighting has been shown to play a significant role in causing wrong-way accidents. Due to reduced visibility when driving at night, it should be unsurprising that over 75% of fatal wrong-way collisions occur between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
As with many types of car accidents, distracted driving can also be a contributing factor to wrong-way accidents. When drivers are not focussed fully on the road, such as if they are texting or adjusting the radio, this can cause them to veer out of their lane and into opposing traffic. Drivers who are not fully focused on the road may also accidentally turn the wrong way onto a one-way street, or they may even turn onto the wrong highway ramp.
Road Design Issues
When a driver ends up taking the wrong freeway ramp, or they turn the wrong way onto a one-way road, this may also be the result of road design and maintenance issues. For instance, highway exit ramps that occur at intersections may confuse drivers, causing them to turn onto the exit ramp thinking that it is a regular street. This confusion can be exacerbated if exit ramps or one-way streets are not properly marked with signs, if there is poor lighting, or if signs are faded or covered in foliage due to a lack of proper maintenance. These drivers may think that they are going the right way until they see other vehicles heading toward them.
How Can I Reduce My Chances of Being Involved in a Wrong-Way Accident?
Wrong-way drivers often seem to come out of nowhere, making it hard for drivers to protect themselves against these dangerous accidents. However, this does not mean that there is nothing that you can do to protect yourself, and others, from the threat of a wrong-way driver. Here are just a few of the things that you can do to stay safe on the road.
Look Farther Down The Road
Whenever you are driving, it is critical that you scan the length of the road ahead of you as far as you possibly can. Looking far ahead of you allows you to see what is coming as soon as possible, giving you time to react. Make sure to sweep the entire width of the roadway, not just your lane of travel, as this can help you to spot a threat sooner.
Consider Driving in The Right Lane
Of course, considering a car driving the wrong way may be coming directly at you at high speeds, you may not have much time to react if you see a car coming toward you on the highway. Thusly, if you are looking for proactive measures that you can take to keep you and your family safe, you should consider driving in the right lane whenever possible. Since many wrong-way driving accidents are the result of drivers accidentally veering into opposing traffic, either due to distraction or inebriation, you are at a greater risk of being hit by an oncoming car if you drive in the left lane. Sticking to the lane furthest to the right will give you a better chance of staying out of harm’s way.
Pull Over (and Call 911)
If you notice a wrong-way driver coming your way when scanning the road ahead of you, try moving all the way to the right side of the road if there is time. Pulling over to the shoulder can help to keep you out of harm’s way. If you have been able to successfully avoid the danger, the first thing that you should do is immediately call 911 to report the wrong-way driver. Never assume that someone else has already reported the threat to the authorities. Once they have been made aware of the incident, the police can then work to stop the vehicle using lights, sirens, spike strips, and roadblocks if necessary.
Get Yourself Noticed
Of course, you may not always have the luxury of being able to pull over to the side of the road. If the wrong-way driver is coming at you too fast, or if you are trapped between vehicles in the lanes next to you, there may not be anywhere to go. In this case, it is important that you do everything that you can to get yourself noticed and alert the other driver to the fact that they are going the wrong way. If the wrong-way driver is not inebriated and was merely distracted, or made a wrong turn, you may be able to get their attention by repeatedly honking your horn and flashing your high-beam headlights on and off. Anything that you can do to get yourself noticed could alert the other driver to their mistake.
What Can be Done to Prevent Wrong-Way Accidents?
In addition to driver awareness, wrong-way driving accidents can be significantly reduced when transit authorities take steps to reduce and intercept wrong-way driving incidents. In addition to maintaining road signs, adding wrong-way signs and flashing lights in high-risk areas can help to prevent drivers from driving the wrong way on a road or highway. Many states are also implementing additional systems to help them detect wrong-way drivers. For instance, in an effort to reduce wrong-way drivers on Florida’s roadways, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is working on new countermeasures that will allow them to detect wrong-way driving events, warn wrong-way drivers, and alert authorities to these incidents. Vehicles detectors including radar and video cameras are being tested to detect wrong-way drivers, and LED signs are being used to warn drivers when they are traveling in the wrong direction.
What Common Injuries Result From Wrong-Way Accidents?
Unfortunately, as we previously mentioned, the nature of wrong-way collisions means that they are often head-on, which significantly increases the likelihood of severe injuries and fatalities. Even if victims survive these crashes, the injuries they sustain may result in the need for surgery and/or extensive hospitalizations, and victims may even potentially suffer long-term disability. The most common injuries that result from wrong-way driving collisions include:
- Head and Neck Injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Spinal Cord Injuries Resulting in Partial or Complete Paralysis
- Internal Injuries to Vital Organs
- And Broken Bones
Due to the severity of the injuries that can result from a wrong-way car accident, it is important that you do not go through the recovery process alone. If you or a loved one has been injured or was killed in a wrong-way accident, it is important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney to support you during this difficult time. An attorney can look out for your best interests and make sure that you are properly represented, giving you the best chances of securing compensation for your losses.