According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), over 350 highway deaths each year are attributable to wrong-way driving incidents, with the vast majority of them due to head-on collisions at high speeds. One percent of conventional auto accidents involve fatalities; the figure skyrockets to 22 percent for wrong-way collisions.
A report issued by the NTSB stated that over half of wrong-way incidents involved alcohol-impaired drivers, with over 60 percent of them having blood-alcohol readings of .15 or higher—nearly double the legal limit in most states. Fifteen percent of wrong-way collisions are initiated by drivers age 70 or above. Confusion and impaired vision are aggravating factors in these accidents.
How do Wrong Way Accidents Happen?
Many wrong-way accidents begin with a driver mistakenly entering a highway from an exit ramp; others originate with people who realize they have missed their exit, so they make a U-turn and head the wrong way back to the exit. Nearly 80 percent of wrong-way accidents occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Research has shown that road configurations sometimes play a role in driver confusion. Entrance and exit ramps that are side by side sometimes compound disorientation. Exit ramps on the left-hand side of a highway seem to exacerbate these situations as well.
The NTSB is recommending that states drop the hammer on first-time DUI offenders by requiring ignition-interlock devices on their cars. Some states are enlarging warning signs and placing them closer to eye level, which is yielding positive results.
If you have been the victim of a wrong-way accident, contact an experienced auto accident attorney to protect your rights.