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What causes wrong-way accidents?

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2024 | Auto Accident Injuries |

Wrong-way accidents, where a driver gets turned around and proceeds down a road or highway against traffic, are not that common – but they are incredibly deadly. 

In 2019 (the last statistics available), 17 wrong-way crashes caused 24 deaths and an untold number of other injuries. Worse, wrong-way crashes are on the rise, increasing 34% over the period from just 2010 to 2014.

What’s causing the problem? It’s a multitude of issues:

1. Impaired driving

One of the biggest causes of wrong-way accidents is impaired driving, primarily due to alcohol or drug consumption. Drivers under the influence of either drugs or alcohol may have impaired judgment, reduced coordination and diminished cognitive abilities, making it more likely for them to confuse exit ramps with on-ramps.

2. Confusing roadway designs

It’s no coincidence that most wrong-way crashes happen at night. Inadequate or confusing roadway design is another significant factor contributing to wrong-way accidents. Poorly marked exit ramps, insufficient signage and jumbled interchanges can disorient drivers, leading them to enter roadways in the wrong direction inadvertently. This is especially true at night or in low light when the existing signs are unclear, and when drivers are on unfamiliar roads.

3. Elderly divers

Elderly drivers may be more prone to wrong-way accidents, often due to factors such as declining cognitive abilities, impaired vision and slowed reflexes that lead to confusion while navigating complex road systems. Conditions like dementia or certain medications can impair a driver’s ability to comprehend traffic signs and navigate roads safely.

Ultimately, you can do very little to control these factors – but you can be alert to the problem and know how to respond if you encounter a wrong-way driver. Pull over as far to the right as possible and call the police to alert them to the problem once you’re safe. If you are in a wreck, find out more about your legal options for compensation.