Wrong-way accidents are among the most dangerous and potentially fatal incidents on the road.
Statistically speaking, they’re uncommon – accounting for under .05% of crashes in California. But that doesn’t count for much to the victims of these head-on crashes, which are often at high speed. It’s not unusual for occupants in both vehicles to be seriously injured or killed.
Why do they happen? There are generally a few major causes:
1. Impaired driving
One of the leading causes of wrong-way accidents is impaired driving. Drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two can make drivers lose focus on what they’re doing or misinterpret road signs and mistakenly enter highway ramps from the exits.
2. Elderly drivers
Elderly drivers, particularly those with age-related cognitive decline or diminished night vision, may find it difficult to navigate complex road systems. They may easily get turned around in the dark and end up going the wrong way.
Distractions are everywhere these days. Everything from cellphone use to adjusting the radio can divert a driver’s attention at the wrong moment, leading to missed road signs. Even just daydreaming or preoccupied thoughts can cause a driver to make a mistake when navigating the highway.
4. Inadequate signage
Missing road signs, signs that are partially obscured by vegetation and signs that just aren’t large enough and easy to read can also make it difficult for drivers to tell highway entrances and exits apart.
Wrong-way accidents are not the norm, but it does bear keeping the possibility in mind. If you see a wrong-way driver, the best thing to do is give them as much space as possible and call 911 as soon as you safely can. If you are in a wreck, or a loved one is killed, legal guidance can help you move forward.