What Every Driver Should Know About Wrong-Way Crashes

What Every Driver Should Know About Wrong-Way Crashes As a driver, you have many potential hazards to keep your eyes on while driving. Whether you are dealing with rush hour traffic in the city, road rage drivers on the interstate, or wildlife out in the country, there are a number of factors that can cause even the safest of drivers to be injured in an accident. One increasingly dangerous factor for drivers sharing the road is wrong-way drivers.

Rarely do you hop into the car thinking you will ever encounter a vehicle headed straight towards you in your own lane. These wrong-way crashes can happen anywhere and this particular type of car accident is often serious, if not fatal because they are almost always head-on collisions.

How common are wrong-way accidents?

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), wrong-way accidents are responsible for between 300 and 400 roadway fatalities per year.  Wrong-way driving is defined as a driver who operates their vehicle in the opposite direction of travel on a freeway or highway and collides with a vehicle traveling in the right direction.

Despite the fact that wrong-way accidents are somewhat uncommon only making up about 3% of all motor vehicle accidents, they are the leading type of motor vehicle accident to result in a fatality. In fact, some 360 deaths in the U.S. each year are due to wrong-way driving accidents. Considering more than 38,000 people die annually across the country in traffic deaths, this number may sound low in the grand scheme of things, but Alabama has a fair number of them, including several from this year alone:

  • One of these fatal crashes happened in August 2021 killing a 38 year old Huntsville woman who died of blunt force injuries when she was driving in the wrong direction on Memorial Parkway. She struck another vehicle injuring the two adult occupants.
  • Prior to that, a 16-year-old boy was killed in June when a truck was driving in the wrong lane on U.S. 431 new New Hope. The driver of that vehicle and another passenger were also injured.
  • Then again, prior to that in March, a couple and their 8-month old daughter were killed in Mobile when a woman driving the wrong way in a fit of rage slammed into their vehicle killing the occupants of both vehicles.

The fatality rate is projected to fall between 12 and 27 percent higher than all other types of collisions according to The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is why they have been proven to be among the most dangerous.

How to avoid a wrong-way crash

You only have seconds to react once you notice a vehicle heading straight towards you so avoiding a head-on collision can be a matter of remaining calm. If you see a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction, slowing down and moving to the side of the road or shoulder is your best course of action.

What injuries are caused by head-on crashes?

Because wrong-way car accidents are often head-on collisions, the risk of a severe or even fatal accident is high. Common injuries resulting from head-on motor vehicle collisions may include:

More data is needed to prevent wrong-way crashes

The National Transportation Safety Board conducted a study of wrong-way vehicle crashes and one thing became apparent. There is still much left to learn about these collisions with regard to who is most likely to cause them, why, and how to stop it from happening. This study concluded that:

  • While wrong-way accidents are rare when compared to other kinds of accidents, to including other forms of head-on collisions, they are statistically fatal and that fact currently remains unchanged despite increases in safety technology.
  • The most dangerous time of day you are most likely to encounter a wrong-way collisions is at night, on the weekends, and in lanes closest to a median if on a multi-lane road.
  • More than 60 percent of wrong-way collisions involve drunk driving, which can include intoxication from alcohol or illegal or prescription drugs.

It is also suspected that several other factors play into wrong-way driving accidents including:

  • Dementia related to age
  • Disorientation
  • Delayed reaction rates
  • Texting while driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Speeding
  • Being an inexperienced or unlicensed driver
  • Poorly lit roadways
  • Poorly designed/confusing interchanges and traffic signage

While these measures will have little to no effect on someone who is intoxicated or otherwise cognitively impaired, the results of the NTSB study ironically showed the most effective prevention measures to be:

  • Traffic control devices
  • Wrong way signage
  • Interchange design
  • Anti-drunk driving measures

The Huntsville car accident lawyers at Martin & Helms serve clients throughout North Alabama who have been seriously injured by distracted or drunk drivers who caused wrong-way crashes. We only take cases on a contingency fee basis so there is never any cost to you unless you receive compensation. To schedule your free consultation in our Huntsville or Decatur office, call 256.539.1990 or reach out to us through our contact form to tell us your story. Also serving Athens and Madison.