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How Common is Wrong-Way Driving?

| Aug 22, 2016 | Infographic, Motor Vehicle Accident

According to the US Department of Transportation and Safety, approximately 350 people die every year from wrong-way driving accidents in the United States. In the Chicago area, an auto accident attorney commonly sees head-on collisions in wrong-way auto accidents that result in serious injuries and fatalities.

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What Causes Wrong-Way Auto Accidents?

According to recent data compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there are common characteristics related to wrong-way auto accidents. Studies and statistics show:

  • Many wrong-way accidents are caused by a vehicle entering an exit ramp, due to a driver’s unfamiliarity with an area or unclear signage.
  • Seven out of nine wrong-way accidents occur in the lane closest to the median.
  • Wrong-way collisions occur more often on weekends and at night. NTSB statistics show that 78 percent of accidents occur between 6 pm and 6 am.
  • Drivers over the age of 70 are often involved in wrong-way accidents. This is typically related to vision problems which make it difficult to read signs.
  • The majority of wrong-way drivers are intoxicated. According to NTSB statistics, more than half of wrong-way accidents are caused by drunk drivers with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .15 or higher, twice the legal limit.

While most cities and states, including Illinois, have improved signs and barriers to prevent wrong-way accidents, drunk driving continues to be a problem in collisions seen by an auto accident attorney. NTSB statistics show that many wrong-way drivers have previous DUI convictions showing serious injuries or fatalities to other drivers. Recently in Chicago, a man was convicted of aggravated DUI that caused a fatal wrong-way crash on Lake Shore Drive.

Preventing Wrong-Way Accidents

Although most cities and states have standard “ONE-WAY”, “WRONG-WAY”, or “DO NOT ENTER” signs, they are often not visible enough at night when most wrong-way accidents occur. Although these signs have letters that reflect the light from a car’s head lights, many drivers don’t see them in time at night when visibility is low. As a result, the Department of Transportation is currently installing larger “WRONG-WAY” and “DO NOT ENTER” signs on many freeway exits and in areas where wrong-way driving accidents are a problem.

To avoid a collision, The US Department of Transportation and Safety recommends that any driver confronted with an oncoming wrong-way driver should flash their high beams on and off, pull over to the side of the road as quickly as possible, and call 911 to report the incident.