Wrong Way Accidents: What They Are and How They Occur

Monday January 23, 2023

When you are behind the wheel of your car, you trust the other drivers to follow road rules and prevent injuries.  It is common to assume they are adequately trained and familiar with the road on which they travel. Unfortunately, all it takes is one wrong-way turn by a drowsy driver to see glaring headlights coming directly at you. 

Wrong-way accidents are serious and often fatal. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) reports that over 400 wrong-way fatalities occur every year. Even in cases where these accidents do not result in death, motorists and passengers often suffer from severe injuries. Rarely do these accidents happen and leave the victims unscathed.  

What Is a Wrong-Way Accident?

A wrong-way driving accident is an auto accident in which a car moving in the opposite direction of traffic collides with a car (or several cars) traveling in the correct direction. In most cases, these accidents occur on divided highways as a driver enters the freeway using an exit ramp, but they can also happen on city streets at low speeds. 

The Top Causes of Wrong-Way Driving Accidents

While driver error is the most common cause of wrong-way car collisions, the situations that lead to a driver being on the road side of the road may vary, as shown below:

Drunk Driving

The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) states that half of all wrong-way car accidents involve intoxicated drivers. In many wrong-way collisions, the driver at fault has an extremely high blood alcohol count, typically twice the legal limit. When a driver is drunk, it affects their vision, judgment, reaction time, and other critical driving skills needed to avoid going the wrong way on a lane, ramp, road, or highway. 

However, one doesn’t need to be completely drunk to be involved in a wrong-way freeway accident. Even consuming a small amount of alcohol can impair a driver’s awareness and raise their likelihood of driving the wrong way. 

Closely connected to drunk driving is distracted driving. When a driver is eating, texting, talking on their cellphone, or changing the radio station while one hand is on the wheel, their eyes and minds are away from the road. This also applies to the driver who falls asleep at the wheel. They could easily take a wrong turn and only realize it when they are about to collide with an oncoming vehicle. 

Older Age

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that elderly drivers aged 70 years and above have higher death rates per 1000 crashes compared to middle-aged drivers (35 to 54 years). The higher incidence of serious accidents also applies to wrong-way accidents.

There are many reasons why older drivers get into more wrong-way accidents. First, seniors are more likely to have health complications such as hearing, vision, or cognitive impairments, which affect their ability to recognize danger quickly. Additionally, physical limitations, such as joint problems or muscle weakness, may affect their ability to prevent a fatal crash. For example, a senior with leg problems may be unable to brake their car on time. Worse still, an older person is more likely to suffer injuries from an auto accident, given their physical condition. 

Poor Ramp Design

Highway ramp designs can be confusing to motorists, especially if they are not fully alert on the road. A confusing highway ramp design  may causea driver may enter the wrong ramp or the wrong side of the roadway. 

The cloverleaf design of highway entrance ramps is especially confusing to drivers because the exit ramps are usually parallel. As such, it’s easy for a driver to end up on the wrong ramp. 

Typically, drivers entering a highway by merging to the left are more likely to end up on the wrong ramp than those merging to the right. This is because when merging to the right, a driver reaches the correct ramp first, so their chances of taking the correct turn are higher. 

When most drivers enter the wrong ramp, they sometimes realize they are moving in the wrong direction and try to turn around. Unfortunately, a select few fail to notice they are driving the wrong way until other vehicles are already heading straight toward them. 

Inadequate Road Signs

Sometimes, a driver can enter the wrong road if there are no clear signs to direct them. If a sign that has been knocked down and is not replaced, the wrong-way driver won’t be able to tell they are going the wrong way. Similarly, the lack of a “Do Not Enter” sign may result in a driver entering a road from the wrong direction. 

Signs should not only be present but also have flashing lights or bright colors to clearly notify drivers  that a ramp is not an entrance and should indicate that it the wrong way.. 

If you’ve been involved in a wrong-way accident resulting from poor signage, keep in mind that you may be able to file a claim against the governmental agency responsible for sign installation and maintenance. However, these type of  cases can be complicated, so seek help from an experienced car accident lawyer before making the claim. 

Common Types of Injuries That Result From Wrong-Way Crashes

Since many wrong-way car accidents occur as head-on collisions between vehicles, the victims often suffer devastating injuries. These injuries include:

  • Broken bones (especially the facial bones, hands, arms, legs, collarbone, ribs, and pelvis)
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Back, neck, and spine injuries
  • Head and brain injuries (e.g., concussions and traumatic brain injury)
  • Internal organ damage in the abdomen or chest
  • Internal bleeding
  • Cuts and lacerations

In the worst-case scenario, these severe injuries result in death. 

Get Help From Our Experienced Car Accident Lawyers

If you or a close loved one has suffered injuries in a wrong way accident caused by another driver, you deserve to receive compensation for your injuries. This compensation will help cover any costs resulting from the crash, including medical expenses, lost wages, loss of enjoyment, or pain and suffering. 

However, time is of the essence when dealing with a car accident case. In the state of Connecticut, you must file your claim within the two-year personal injury statute of limitations. To ensure everything moves smoothly, reach out to our legal experts at Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, LLC., as soon as possible. 

We will review your specific situation to determine if you have a case, and then explain to you the available legal options. We can file the claim on your behalf and will work tirelessly to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. 

Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation. 

Get in Touch

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation

At Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, L.L.C., we handle all cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we do not get paid unless and until you receive a settlement or a jury award.

Schedule a free, confidential consultation with a skilled Connecticut personal injury lawyer today.

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