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Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer Notes Wrong-Way Highway Accidents Are Often Deadly

Daniel MunleyEleven people died last week in two highway collisions, one in Florida and one in California, caused by drivers going the wrong way. Driving the wrong way on highways has been a traffic safety problem since the interstate highway system was first developed. Despite decades of sign improvements at interchanges, the problem persists.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), hundreds of people are killed each a year when drivers turn the wrong-way into the face of oncoming traffic, causing head-on collisions on high-speed highways, and a majority of the crashes involves drivers with blood alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit. A Ford Expedition SUV traveling south on northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa, Florida, collided head-on with a Hyundai Sonata just after 2 a.m. on Sunday, killing the SUV driver and all four people in the other car according to the Florida Highway Patrol. In California that same day, six people were killed in a pre-dawn crash when a motorist was traveling the wrong way on a highway east of Los Angeles, according to the California Highway Patrol. Police logs show a vehicle was reportedly traveling at 100 mph on the wrong side of the highway before the collision occurred.

On average, 360 people are killed each year in wrong-way collisions, NTSB researchers said. They reported that wrong-way accidents are much more likely to result in fatal and serious injuries than other types of highway accidents. A study by the NTSB analyzed data from 1,566 crashes from 2004 to 2009, as well as nine wrong-way collisions the NTSB directly investigated. In 59 percent of the accidents, wrong-way drivers had blood alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit, researchers said. In another 10 percent of the crashes, drivers had alcohol levels between .08 and .14. The limit in most instances is .08.

Older drivers also appear to be part of the problem. According to the study, drivers over age 70 were overrepresented in the accidents, accounting for 15 percent of the wrong-way drivers compared to only 3 percent of the right-way drivers they collided with, researchers said. Wrong-driving crashes on interstates, expressways and other high-speed highways are especially deadly because over 80 percent involve head-on collisions in which vehicles close in on each other very rapidly, the NTSB reported. A 2012 study in Michigan found that 22 percent of wrong-way collisions were fatal, compared to .3 percent for all highway accidents over the same period.

For many decades it has been known that the most common initiating event for driving the wrong way on controlled access highways is entering the lanes by entering on an exit ramp. Some highway designs are more problematic or confusing to drivers. According to the NTSB, the chain of events often begins with drivers entering an exit ramp in the wrong direction, making a U-turn on the mainline of a highway or using an emergency turnaround through a median. According to the NTSB, some states have initiated design changes that have proven effective in reducing wrong-way movements on highways.

Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer Dan Munley offers safety tips to avoid a head-on collision.

  • Watch far ahead for signs of a possible wrong way driver.
  • Be aware of traffic braking or swerving to avoid something.
  • Be aware of headlights coming in the opposite direction.
  • Be aware that wrong way drivers usually drive in the inside lane or inside shoulder, believing they are actually on a two-lane highway.
  • Be aware when you are entering a highway, be alert and watch all signs to insure you are entering in the proper direction, including overhead signs, roadside signs, and pavement arrows or signs.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a crash, please contact the Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys by calling 855-866-5529.

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Posted in Car Accidents.

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