Wrong Way Car Crashes: A Major Cause of Catastrophic Injuries
A wrong way violation is simply traveling in the opposite direction on a one-way roadway. This can happen on a one-way street, exit ramp or when a vehicle crosses the center line and travels into the path of oncoming traffic. In any event, the result can be a front-end collision, which is more likely to result in catastrophic injuries.
It can be terrifying to a motorist who sees a car headed directly at them with little or no opportunity to avoid a potential head-on collision. These types of crashes constitute only about 3 percent of all car accidents, though the injuries sustained in a frontal collision can be severe. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), frontal collisions are the most common type of crashes that result in fatalities.
Often, the motorist traveling the wrong way either is confused or is driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Other causes may include:
- Poor weather or lighting that obscures signs
- Distracted driving
- Fatigue or asleep at the wheel
- Blown tire or faulty steering system causing car to veer into oncoming traffic
- Overtaking a vehicle and not seeing or misjudging speed of an oncoming vehicle
- Medical condition such as a stroke or heart attack
- Unfamiliarity with roadway
- Failure to see one-way or warning signs on an entrance or exit ramp
- Confusion at a construction zone
Intoxicated drivers are the main culprits in these accidents. A National Transportation Safety Board study reported that about two-thirds of these types of accidents involve drunk drivers. Also, these drivers had an average blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Some states and municipalities are addressing the problem of wrong way accidents by using certain technology to alert highway patrols and motorists. Florida highway officials are using a sensor system on some of its toll or turnpike roads where these crashes have become a concern. When a motorist begins traveling the wrong way, cameras and sensors detect the incident and patrols are sent to intercept the driver. Drivers are also confronted with LED lights warning them of the danger. Texas is using flashing signs and warning other drivers with digital signs of an approaching car in the opposite direction.
The federal government has been working on and is considering a new technology called “Connected Vehicle” whereby motorists can send messages to other drivers warning them that they are proceeding in the wrong direction. In the meantime, safety experts are urging counties and municipalities to lower the height of and increase the number of signs at entrance and exit ramps that are frequently the site of wrong-way accidents so that they are in the line of sight of motorists.
A problem facing many cities and towns experiencing these crashes is the cost of installing sensors or flashing signs since these can cost a minimum of $25,000 and up to over $250,000 for more sophisticated safety devices. For now, addressing drunk driving and using less costly measures will have to be sufficient.
These types of crashes can result in substantial damages for a severely injured person. You could collect compensation from the responsible driver or even a county or other public entity if its signs were inadequate. Damages are economic and non-economic and can include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Lost earning capacity
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Spousal loss of consortium claim
- Punitive damages—if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or exhibited a willful disregard for the safety of the decedent (not all states allow such damages unless the victim died)
In wrongful death actions, the immediate family of a decedent could collect:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Lost financial support
- Lost value of household duties and activities
- Loss of the decedent’s love, affection, guidance, and support
- Pain and suffering of the decedent if observed to have consciously suffered before death—not all states permit such damages
- Punitive damages
Have You Been Injured in a Wrong-Way Car Accident? Call Us Today!
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