Driving down the road is inherently dangerous, but we do it anyway because it is a convenient method of transportation, and most drivers operate their vehicles safely to avoid accidents.
Now, imagine you are minding your own business and just trying to get to your destination when you suddenly see bright lights in front of you. It may not register right away what those lights are.
Could they be from a construction site, or maybe someone’s headlights from the other side of the road? As they get closer, you can see that they are, in fact, headlights, so there must be a curve in the road.
Closer still, you see that there is no curve. Those headlights are coming straight for you. You try to swerve out of the way, but it’s too late. You and the headlights collide head-on.
How Common Are Wrong-Way Accidents
Driving the wrong way on any road means driving directly into oncoming traffic. This type of accident should never happen, but it happens more frequently than anyone would like to think about.
It’s like a frightening scene from an action movie coming to life. There are times when a vehicle will make a wrong turn down a one-way street, but most often, it happens because one of the drivers is drunk.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, wrong-way driving accidents kill three to four hundred people every year, and over sixty percent of these are caused by drunk drivers.
This type of collision happens primarily at night, on the weekends, and on divided highways in the lanes closest to the median. Wrong-way accidents do not occur as often as other types of collisions, but they are extremely serious and usually fatal.
How Can I Avoid Wrong-Way Collisions
The number one way to avoid a wrong-way collision is to not be the driver who causes the accident.
Do Not Drink and Drive
Pay Attention to Signage
Visually Plan Your Turns
Do Not Drink and Drive
Alcohol clouds your judgment and acts like a sedative in the way that it impairs your coordination and motor skills.
Pay Attention to Signage
One-way roads should have signs stating “wrong way” or “do not enter” to alert drivers not to enter the roadway in the wrong direction.
Visually Plan Your Turns
Visually plan your route before making left-hand turns at intersections to be sure you stay to the right of any medians to avoid becoming trapped on the wrong side.
Avoid driving late at night on the weekends. Most wrong-way accidents happen at this time, so it’s best to stay off the roads. This is also the time when there are more intoxicated people driving, so if you have to drive at this time, be hyper-vigilant about your surroundings and other vehicles.
Stay in the right lanes while traveling on divided highways. Most wrong-way accidents occur near the median because that is where oncoming traffic lanes would be if your side of the median was an undivided highway. Vehicles traveling in the wrong direction may not realize what they have done and believe that they are next to the shoulder and not the median. It is also possible that upon realization of their predicament, they stay as close as possible to where they should be in an effort to cross the median at the first opportunity. No matter the reason, this situation is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
What Are Other Causes of Wrong Way Accidents?
While drunk driving is the main cause of wrong-way collisions, sober drivers sometimes manage to cause these accidents too. Some form of negligence is usually involved.
Cell Phone Use – Cell phones are the worst distraction for all motor vehicle operators. Reading a text message takes the driver’s eyes off the road for precious seconds that could have been used to prevent an accident.
Distracted Driving – Even without phones, distractions are everywhere. Billboards, bumper stickers, events occurring beside the road, and even daydreaming are all distracting both riders and drivers from operating their vehicles.
Blindly Following GPS – Navigation systems are tools that help drivers find their destinations and necessary stops along the way. However, tools are only as useful as the person attempting to use them. For example, the voice from the GPS says to turn left, so some people simply turn left without looking at the road through their windshield, where they would see a big sign warning them not to enter. The road they needed was only a few yards away, but they turned into oncoming traffic instead.
Driving Tired – Driving while fatigued has similar effects as driving while intoxicated. It slows reaction times, impairs decision-making, and reduces the ability to safely operate a vehicle.
Speeding – Driving too fast for the road and traffic conditions leaves the driver at risk of making more mistakes because of the reduced time to observe the surroundings and correctly react.
Unfit Drivers – Older drivers are common culprits of wrong-way driving. Sometimes they are simply following a route that they have traveled for years, but with a growing population, roadways are often expanded and, therefore, changed. Poor eyesight, dementia, and disorientation also play a part in older drivers driving on the wrong side of the road.
Inadequate Signage – Road signs are needed to give drivers information and instructions to keep everyone safe. When these signs are missing, damaged, or hidden, drivers can easily take a wrong turn onto a one-way street.
Poor Interchange Design – Most interchanges are designed in a similar way. This similarity makes navigating unfamiliar routes easier for out-of-town drivers, but when an unexpected design is encountered, drivers can quickly become confused. For example, most interchanges for entering an interstate have a right turn to travel right and a left turn to travel left, with both merging into traffic from their respective right lanes. However, there are some interchanges that are an opposite design that has drivers feeling turned around and have them merging on the left side of the interstate. The same confusion happens with exits on the left rather than the right.
Insufficient Lighting – Navigating unfamiliar roads is difficult and even more challenging in the dark. Signs and medians become more difficult to see, especially with dark pavement. Someone could easily make a left turn onto a road from a side street without realizing that the road is divided because they could not see the median in the dark.
What Injuries Are Caused by One-Way Drunk Driving Accidents?
Victims of one-way drunk driving accidents are usually hit head-on and suffer serious injuries if they survive. Some of the more common injuries survivors are left with include the following:
Traumatic Brain Injury – According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, traumatic brain injuries are caused by a forceful blow or jolt to the head or by an object that pierces the skull and enters the brain. Effects from this injury can range from temporary to permanent and can affect the way the person moves, thinks, communicates, understands, and acts. There is also a risk of permanent disability and death.
Spine Damage – An accident that causes swelling around the spine can cause a loss of function and sensation below the site of the injury. When the spinal cord is severed, the damage is almost always permanent.
Broken Bones – Broken bones are common injuries in car accidents and typically occur when the car crumples into the occupants of the vehicle or when the occupant is thrown against the car, another object, or a person. Facial bones are particularly at risk during front-end crashes, either from the steering wheel and dashboard or from the force of the airbag.
Organ Damage – Internal organs may become damaged or bruised due to the violent nature of high-speed collisions. Seatbelts save lives but often cause bruising along the abdomen. Deep enough damage is most likely to affect the spleen, liver, or kidneys. The lungs and heart are also at risk, especially if there are any broken ribs.
Lacerations – Broken glass, crumpling vehicles, and objects from inside or outside the cars becoming projectiles are just some of the ways people receive torn skin and muscles in a wrong way accident. Many victims have to live with disfiguring scars and decreased range of motion in the areas surrounding their lacerations.
Contact a Drunk Driving Attorney to Discuss Your Accident
If you have been injured or if your loved one has been injured or killed by a drunk driver in a wrong-way accident, you need an experienced lawyer by your side to ensure you get the compensation you are entitled to receive.
We understand the amount of pain this type of accident causes, and we will fight the legal battle for you, so you can focus on your recovery. Call Tatum & Atkinson at (800) LAW-0804 as soon as possible for a free consultation and to get the process started.