Wrong-Way Crashes

Imagine you are taking your family on a long distance vacation.  In the middle of the night, you see headlights in the distance and then, suddenly, you realize that the headlights are in your lane of a divided highway — coming straight at your car or van.  What can you do?

Thankfully, the number of head on collisions that occur on freeways is (statistically speaking) quite low; however, they often result in fatalities.

Common characteristics of these collisions include (but may not be limited to):

  • driver impairment,
  • confusion over on-off ramp signs, and
  • late night/early morning time periods when people are less alert and prone to mistakes.

Three fatal head-on collisions happened during the past week in Arizona.  Seven people have died, including an off-duty police officer.  All of these deaths were linked by cause — someone driving the wrong way on a divided or limited access highway.

You can investigate the particular details in a series of news reports:

The Arizona DOT has also issued a press release (Click Here) that addresses the concerns and safety issues of “Wrong-Way Drivers

Some ideas or tips that have been considered to address the issue include:

  • Re-positioning “Wrong-Way, Do Not Enter” signs to be closer to driver’s eye level
  • Installing red reflectors in the road way so that any driver trying to access an off-ramp would see the red reflectors at night and get a clue that they’re going up the wrong ramp
  • Install detectors at ramps that sense when a vehicle has gained access to a divided highway and is traveling in the wrong direction — then immediately send alerts to programmable billboard (alert) signs to warn drivers of the oncoming and errant driver
  • Educate drivers about the increased risks of driving at night – especially on Fridays and Saturdays when there is a statistical increase in drunk driving activity
  • Staying out of the far left lane except to pass since oncoming drivers will typically use that lane (they believe that they’re in the far right lane based on their direction of travel).
  • Be ready to move to the right (if it’s clear to do so) to evade oncoming traffic
  • Increase the efforts to crack down on drinking/drugged driving with ignition interlocks
  • Call in a report to 9-1-1 if you witness a “wrong-way” driver so that they can intervene or warn other motorists.

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