Sometimes a wrong turn can lead to disastrous outcome, particularly when that wrong turn puts a driver into the path of oncoming traffic. According to the National Transportation Safety Administration, wrong-way driving occurs when a vehicle moves into a traffic lane against the legal flow of traffic. Wrong-way accidents typically occur on controlled-access highways, high-speed divided highways, and along highway entrance and exit ramps.
Wrong-way accidents, or head on collisions, happen when a driver, who is driving against the flow of traffic, collides with one or more motor vehicles moving in the lawful direction. Below are the most common causes of wrong-way accidents:
- No Proper Signage, Inadequate Signage or Incorrect Sign Placement – Confusing signage (or lack thereof) can be a significant cause of wrong way accidents, especially around highway exit and entrance ramps. Safety experts believe installing higher-visibility traffic signs and adding street lighting at entrance and exit ramps will significantly reduce wrong-way driving incidents.
- Construction Detours – Road construction can create a lot of confusion for drivers, particularly when one-way roads are temporarily converted into dual-direction roadways. When construction workers do not use the proper lane-changing techniques or signage, some drivers accidentally travel in the wrong lane after passing through the temporary detour.
- Drunk Driving – A report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that approximately 60% of all wrong-way drivers had indications of alcohol involvement. The study also reported that 59% of the intoxicated, wrong-way drivers had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher.
- Distracted Driving – Driving while distracted can lead to people taking a wrong turn or making other driving errors. Inattentive driving is a significant cause of turning into the wrong highway ramp or driving in the wrong direction up a one-way street.
- Drowsy Driving – According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the effects of driving drowsy can be similar to drunk driving. Studies have shown that when people have been awake for 18 hours or longer, their driving abilities are identical to a driver who has a blood content (BAC) of 0.05%. Unfortunately, driving while drowsy is a widespread problem in our society and often results in drivers making errors or falling asleep at the wheel.
- Impaired senses – As we age, our bodies begin to change. Our peripheral vision begins to decrease in size, our cognitive health begins to decline, and our senses of sight and hearing begin to diminish. These types of impairments affect one’s ability to drive. As a result, elderly drivers account for approximately 15% of all wrong-way accidents.
- Suicide Attempts – Tragically, there is a trend of suicide-related driving accidents being covered in the news. NPR reports that the sudden rise in teen suicide has school officials concerned that the “coronavirus pandemic is playing a role.” Unfortunately, wrong-way driving accidents has become a mechanism for some of these suicides.
- Driving in Unfamiliar Areas – Drivers who are not familiar with the surrounding area are more prone to make a wrong turn or attempt a risky, illegal U-turn when following a vehicle’s navigation directions. Tourists visiting an area might also not be familiar with traffic patterns or the way local motorists drive.
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