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What Causes Wrong-Way Car Accidents?

Wrong-way car accidents can cause catastrophic and fatal injuries to vehicle occupants. Wrong-way crashes often take the form of head-on collisions. In a head-on collision, the vehicles collide at their combined speeds. If one car was traveling at 50 miles per hour and the wrong-way driver was going 75, for example, the speed of the head-on collision would be 125 miles per hour. Wrong-way accidents kill 300 to 400 people each year on average. All drivers should try to prevent the common causes of wrong-way car accidents.

wrong way car accident

Confusing Road Markings or Lack of Signage

Roadway engineering is a significant cause of wrong-way car accidents in the U.S. Dangerously designed exits and on-ramps to freeways have a particularly long history of causing wrong-direction accidents. Confusing signs, pavement paint and road designs could make it difficult for a driver to understand which road is the entrance to the highway and which is the exit. This could lead the driver to get onto a highway going the wrong direction and ultimately cause a devastating accident.

Designing intuitive roadways and on-ramps, installing better signs, and implementing safety features such as reflectors that appear red when a driver is going the wrong way could all reduce the occurrence of wrong-way car accidents. It is a city’s responsibility to identify its most dangerous roads and try to prevent wrong-way crashes before they occur. Inspecting freeway entryways and assessing wrong-way accidents that happen in the community could help prevent these deadly collisions.

Drunk Driving

Even if the city does its job in designing and maintaining its roads, a drunk or reckless driver could cause a wrong-way car accident. One study from 2015 found that more than half (58%) of all drivers involved in wrong-way vehicle accidents were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An older study put this percentage at 61%. Driving drunk or drugged could make it impossible to properly read roadway signs or interpret markings on the road. A drunk driver may, therefore, be unable to understand how to properly enter a highway. Drunk drivers are also more likely to engage in reckless driving behaviors such as making unsafe passes or speeding.

Most wrong-way accidents also occur at night. Poor visibility, especially by drunk or elderly drivers, could contribute to entering a road driving the wrong way. A city may be able to remedy this issue by installing better highway lights and/or reflectors. Other driver errors can also cause wrong-way collisions, such as falling asleep behind the wheel, driving distracted, daydreaming, talking to passengers, and failing to read surrounding roadway signs and markings before making a turn.

Unsafe Passing

A wrong-way car accident could occur on a two-lane road if one driver tries to make an unsafe pass. On a two-lane road, a driver may only pass on a dotted line and only if it is safe to do so. The passing driver must scan the opposite lane for oncoming cars. Then, the driver must execute the pass as quickly and efficiently as possible. An inexperienced, incompetent or reckless driver could cause a wrong-way collision by trying to pass too closely to an oncoming car.

Defective Roadways

In some cases, a driver may enter the opposite lane to avoid a roadway defect, such as a pothole or fallen tree, and get into a wrong-way crash. Dangerous roadway conditions or defects could contribute to wrong-way car accidents in this way. The city is responsible for preventing road-related issues such as dangerous construction detours, lack of proper lighting, lack of wrong-way signs, missing reflectors, damaged guardrails and missing roadway signs. Failing to inspect, repair and maintain the roadways could lead to the city government’s liability for a related wrong-way accident.

If you or a loved one is the victim of a wrong-way accident in Virginia, contact an attorney for advice about your legal options. The at-fault driver, the city or another party could be liable for your damages.

Contact a Richmond personal injury lawyer if you’ve been involved in a wrong-way car accident