Driver Factors That Cause Fatal Wrong-Way Crashes on the Highway

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Seeing a pair of headlights coming at you the wrong way on the highway is terrifying. Wrong- way highway crashes are often fatal and on the rise in recent years. A notable research organization recently looked into what causes them.

In March the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety – the research arm of AAA – released a study on deadly wrong-way crashes (“Fatal Wrong-Way Crashes on Divided Highways”). The organization noted that between 2010 and 2018, nearly 4,000 people were killed in the United States in wrong-way crashes.

Highway Wrong-Way Crashes on the Rise

It also found that the number of people killed annually in wrong way crashes increased some 34% between 2015 and 2018, compared to 2010 and 2014. And a little more than 40% of those killed in wrong-way crashes between 2010 and 2018 were occupants of other vehicles.

For the purposes of this study, wrong-way crashes were defined as:

• A driver going the opposite way of traffic

• A crash occurring on a highway or similar roadway that had some sort of barrier separating the traffic directions, or on a highway entrance or exit ramp

Researchers looked at both drivers – those going the wrong direction and those going the right direction – in all fatal wrong-way crashes. Comparing these two groups helped identify the most common factors causing deadly wrong-way driving accidents.

Distracted driving is a common cause of fatal car crashes. It’s been found that passengers are often a deadly distraction for drivers, along with cell phone use, fidgeting with the radio or eating and drinking. However, the study found passengers were beneficial in preventing wrong-way crashes, alerting drivers to a potential wrong decision.

Age was another identified factor in fatal wrong-way highway crashes. While the number of total drivers age 70 and above in wrong-way crashes was relatively small, this age group percentage-wise had the highest number drivers who’s wrong-way crashes were fatal.

Those between the ages of 20 and 29 had the most drivers going the wrong way in fatal highway crashes, followed by the age group 30 to 39 years old.

Other factors in fatal wrong-way highway crashes the researchers examined included:

• Gender of the wrong-way driver

• License status of the wrong-way driver

• Vehicle type

• Vehicle age

• Whether or not the driver was licensed in the state in which the crash occurred

Drunk Drivers Who Cause Fatal Wrong-Way Driving Accidents

But the most common factor involving wrong-way driving, not surprisingly, was drunk driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a major cause of fatal car crashes of any type. A federal report released last June (“State Alcohol-Impaired-Driving Estimates”) shows that almost 30% of all people killed in motor vehicle crashes died in a crash with a legally drunk driver.

This study found that 60% of all fatal wrong-way crashes on the highway involved a legally drunk driver – one with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher.

The researchers clearly established that the more alcohol consumed, the greater the odds of a driver being involved in a deadly wrong-way accident.

Wrong-way crashes on a highway are often fatal because of the speed involved as well as they are typically head-on collisions. So many could be avoided if drivers only acted responsibly, especially after consuming alcohol.

If you were seriously hurt or lost a loved one in a crash involving a wrong-way driver or a driver somehow otherwise being irresponsible, speak to a car accident attorney about your legal rights to just compensation.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog May 19, 2021



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