Wrong Way Crashes are on the Rise
Wrong way car accidents are extremely dangerous and often deadly as the result if often a head-on collision. Unfortunately, safety experts believe that this problem has gotten worse in recent years, especially in the Lone Star state. While Texas was found to lead the country in wrong way crashes, unfortunately, these dangerous and often preventable accidents have been on the rise nationwide as well.
What is a Wrong Way Accident?
A wrong way accident is a car accident that happens when two vehicles collide because one of them is traveling against the legal flow of traffic. Because wrong way crashes are caused by a driver heading in the wrong direction colliding with a vehicle traveling in the correct direction, the result is all too often a head on collisions. Because of the forces involved, this type of collision tends to be more severe than the average car accident, often seriously or fatally injuring the people involved.
Wrong Way Accident Statistics
According to the Federal Highway Administration, there were 36,096 traffic fatalities resulting from wrong-way crashes in 2019.
Texas was dubbed the worst, leading the country in wrong way crashes. In a report published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Texas was found to have the most fatal wrong way crashes and the highest number of fatalities resulting from wrong way crashes nationwide over a seven-year period, accounting for roughly 14% of both the nation’s fatal wrong way accidents and wrong way accident fatalities.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also reported that the state of Texas has seen an increase in fatalities in recent years. Between 2015 and 2018, Texas saw an average of 77 deaths caused by wrong way crashes, a 29% increase from 2010-2014’s average of 60 fatalities a year.
Unfortunately, this issue is not limited to Texas. Fatal wrong way accidents have increased nationwide. Data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also shows 2,008 fatalities nationwide from wrong way crashes between 2015 and 2018, or roughly 500 deaths a year. That is a 34% increase from the four year stretch prior, with 2010-2014 averaging 375 deaths a year.
Common Injuries Sustained via Wrong Way Crashes
Due to the forces involved in a head-on collision, wrong way crashes are extremely dangerous for the people inside the vehicles. Head-on collisions cause direct force trauma to the drivers and passengers of all vehicles involved. Suffering from direct force trauma can leave the victims with a variety of injuries, including but not limited to:
- traumatic brain injuries
- neck and spinal cord injuries
- fractures and broken bones
- burn injuries
- lung damage
- internal injuries including abdominal injuries, fractured ribs or damage to major organs,
- crush injuries, and
- wrongful death
Most-Common Causes of Wrong Way Crashes
There are many factors that can cause wrong way crashes. Some of the reasons why someone might drive against the legal flow of traffic can include intoxicated driving, distracted driving, unfamiliarity with the area, confusion regarding one-way roads, low lights, a lack of signage directing drivers where to go, and road hazards that cause the driver to veer into oncoming traffic.
However, research done by AAA looking into the major causes of wrong way crashes found that of all of the potential contributing factors, the three most common causes of wrong way accidents were alcohol impairment, older drivers, and distracted driving.
Alcohol impairment is a major contributor. Of the accidents reviewed by AAA, six out of ten wrong way crashes occurred due to alcohol impairment. Drivers with blood alcohol concentrations over the legal limit were much more likely to be at fault for wrong way accidents than the non-alcohol impaired drivers involved.
In addition to alcohol impairment, older drivers are also more at-risk. The data reveals that people over the age of 70 are more likely to drive the wrong way, despite drivers between 75-79 spending less time behind the wheel than younger counterparts.
Interestingly, driving alone is a common factor in wrong way collisions. Statistics show that 87% of wrong way drivers were alone in the vehicle. Passengers can alert drivers of any hazards they might have missed, and ensure the driver stays awake.
Tips for Preventing Wrong Way Crashes
Research conducted by Texas A&M states that some of the changes that local and federal officials can implement in hopes of mitigating this hazard – the number of wrong way crashes that occur – include installing reflectorized arrows on roads and ramps, repairing any deficient signage, and adding “do not enter” and “wrong way” signage. However, until these necessary changes are made, there are several things that everyday drivers can do to prevent wrong way crashes.
It is imperative that drivers do not get behind the wheel when intoxicated or fatigued, as they could pose a threat to others on the road and cause a wrong way accident. In addition, in order to prevent these types of crashes, experts also suggest driving with a passenger when possible, as many wrong way drivers were alone in the vehicle when the accident occurred. Having a second set of eyes to help watch the road can help prevent an accident.
In addition to ensuring they don’t get behind the wheel when incapacitated so that they don’t cause an accident, drivers should also be on high alert for wrong way drivers and utilize defensive driving skills. Drivers who keep their gaze focused ahead on the road, use their mirrors, and keep both hands on the wheel are much more likely to avoid drifting into the wrong lane and causing crashes.
And if you do find yourself in the path of an oncoming vehicle, experts state that the best thing to do is to slow down as much as you can and pull your car to the right, in hopes of avoiding a head-on collision and having the best chance of survival. Avoid jerking the wheel too suddenly, as you may lose control of the vehicle. Once you have safely pulled over, contact your local authorities for help.
Wrong way crashes can lead to serious injury and fatalities. If you’ve been injured in a wrong way crash, contact our car accident lawyers today to see how we can help. Give us a call at 713-224-9000, or fill out our contact form here.
Michael S Callahan is an attorney and founder of The Callahan Law Firm. He focuses his practice on representing individuals and families in personal injury cases involving motor vehicle and truck accidents, workplace accidents and defective products. With over 25 years of experience, he is dedicated to fighting on behalf of people whose lives have been forever altered by the negligence and carelessness of corporations and individuals. Originally trained as a mechanical engineer, Michael has been practicing law and fighting for justice for those who need it most since 1994. He is board-certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a member of various esteemed legal associations. Outside of work, Michael enjoys spending quality time with his family, outdoor activities, and continually striving to improve as a trial lawyer and human being.