Things to Know About Wrong-Way Driving Accidents
Wrong-way driving (WWD) or counterflow driving occurs when a driver operates a motor vehicle against the usual direction of traffic. It can occur anywhere: on one- or two-way roads, in parking lots, and in parking garages. Some of the most common causes of WWD include driver inattention, driver intoxication, driver impairment, and insufficient or confusing road markings or signage.
Another cause could be that a driver from a right-hand traffic country who is unaccustomed to driving in a left-hand traffic country becomes disoriented and vice versa. However, there are also cases in which people intentionally drive in the wrong direction because they missed an exit, they thought they could take a shortcut, or they simply did it for the thrill.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, wrong-way driving accidents account for approximately 300-400 deaths in the United States every year. Some of the common causes of WWD are:
- Alcohol use: Data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicates that more than half of all wrong-way collisions involve an intoxicated driver.
- Advanced age: Elderly drivers are commonly responsible for causing wrong-way accidents. This can be due to their inability to recognize danger resulting from health complications or physical limitations. Research shows that age-induced dementia and slow reaction times may play a part in many WWD accidents.
- Texting and driving: Some people refer to the act of texting and driving as “intextication”. A driver who is not attentive and fails to pay attention to the road ahead because they are using their phone may cause an accident if they turn onto the wrong highway ramp or drive the wrong way.
- Unfamiliar roadways or confusing traffic signage: Drivers who are unfamiliar with an area may not know how to navigate one-way streets or the direction of travel in alleys. Confusing or inadequate traffic signs may also cause wrong-way accidents.
- Road design issues: Highway interchanges, especially cloverleaf and partial cloverleaf designs, can pose a risk of collisions if the ramps to enter and exit the roadway are parallel, such as when highway entrances and exits occur at intersections. A driver trying to turn left may turn too soon, placing them in the path of traffic rather than on the opposite side.
- Inadequate warning signs: Poorly marked ramps and the absence of “Do Not Enter” signs can also contribute to the occurrence of WWD accidents, as can inadequate lighting or foliage-obstructed signs. Because of these risks, a driver may enter an empty stretch of roadway, only to realize that they are traveling in the wrong direction when it is too late.
- Defective/faulty automobile equipment: A product designer or manufacturer may be held liable for a WWD crash if a defective tire, flawed steering system, or other defective auto component forced the driver to enter the roadway against the flow of traffic.
Some of the other common causes of WWD accidents include speeding, distracted or drowsy driving, unlicensed or poorly trained drivers, roadway construction, negligent interchange designs, and inadequate roadway lighting. A car accident lawyer can guide you through how to properly manage the aftermath of a WWD accident. An attorney can help you take the right steps in difficult times and improve your chances of securing the compensation you deserve for your losses.
Types of Injuries That WWD Accidents Cause
Even though WWD traffic accidents do not occur as frequently as other types of accidents, they can be particularly concerning because the mortality rate in wrong-way driving accidents is statistically higher than in other kinds of road accidents.
One of the reasons why these types of accidents are so deadly is that they are almost exclusively head-on or nearly head-on collisions.
Some of the most common injuries that victims incur as a result of wrong-way driving accidents include:
- Head injuries, such as concussions and traumatic brain injury
- Chest and thoracic trauma
- The spinal cord, neck, or back injuries that result in partial or complete paralysis
- Internal injuries to organs in the chest or abdomen
- Broken bones, especially within the face, pelvis, collarbone, ribs, legs, and arms
- Wrongful death, in extreme cases
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of a WWD accident, you may be able to seek financial recovery from the party at fault, which may be anyone involved in the accident, including drivers, insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, and the municipality or government agency responsible for maintaining the roadway and signage.
The compensation in WWD accident cases can be substantial, especially when a victim incurs serious or debilitating injuries. Injured victims can consult a personal injury lawyer to seek the compensation they deserve for their injuries, and an accident victim’s family can speak with an experienced attorney to recover for their loved one’s loss after a wrongful death.