Fatal collisions have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite less time spent on the road. Back in April, a report published in CT Insider revealed that the first four months of 2022 saw the same number of wrong-way crash fatalities as all of 2021.

On a single weekend in February 2022, two accidents resulted in six fatalities. In 2021, seven deaths occurred as a result of wrong-way crashes. As of November 2022, there have been 12 fatal wrong-way car accidents resulting in 22 fatalities.

Behind Wrong-Way Crash Statistics

wrong way driving signA wrong-way accident occurs when a driver travels in the opposite direction and hits a vehicle coming toward them, typically resulting in a head-on collision. Connecticut saw wrong-way driving peak in 2015 with 615 total reported incidents. The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported 497 incidents in 2021 and 460 so far in 2022.

Data also indicates that alcohol and drug use play a role in wrong-way driving incidents. According to the DOT, over 75 percent of drivers who caused a fatal wrong-way crash on a state road in the past two years had a blood alcohol content (BAC) at least 2 times the legal limit of 0.08, had consumed marijuana or both.

Why and How Do Wrong-Way Accidents Occur?

Medians and other barriers between lanes create a boundary to prevent wrong-way driving but motorists can still travel up the incorrect ramp. On local roads, a driver might not clearly see signage or drift over the line to the opposite side of the road. On average, the Federal Highway Administration reports 360 fatalities from 260 wrong-way crashes occur nationally.

While this amounts to roughly three percent of all car accidents per year, wrong-way crashes are responsible for up to 27 percent of all fatalities. Passengers who survive can experience traumatic brain, spinal cord and abdominal injuries, broken bones or paralysis.

Beyond a driver traveling on the wrong side of the road while under the influence, other factors could play a role:

  • Distracted or fatigued driving can cause a motorist to miss key signs, signals and changing traffic patterns. This can result in drivers traveling the wrong direction on a one-way street or up a ramp.
  • Motorists over age 70 are responsible for roughly 15 percent of wrong-way crashes. Vision or medication issues may make signage and road design less clear, while conditions like dementia may cause drivers to forget where they are.
  • Younger drivers also have a higher risk of getting into wrong-way crashes, as they tend to be more focused on the road ahead rather than surrounding conditions.
  • Road design can create confusion for drivers, especially people not local to the area. Common scenarios include missing or unreadable signs, poorly marked ramps and dimly lit streets.
  • Road conditions can influence how well drivers see signage and lines. Wrong-way crashes are more likely to occur at night and during snow, fog, dust storms or rain.
  • More drivers depend on GPS to get around. Although these systems can offer guidance about where to turn, drivers unfamiliar with an area have a higher chance of traveling the wrong-way on a one-way street or making an illegal U-turn.
  • Detours can cause confusion for all drivers, especially if the typical traffic pattern has changed and signs do not clearly indicate what to expect.

Injuries from Wrong-Way Crashes

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that 20 percent of all wrong-way crashes involve a fatality. For those who survive, injuries are often life changing, resulting in serious complications and requiring extensive rehabilitation. Common injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Full or partial paralysis
  • Internal abdominal injuries
  • Chest injuries
  • Broken bones

How to Avoid Wrong-Way Accidents

In addition to refraining from alcohol and drug use, distracted and fatigued driving, you can reduce the risk of a wrong-way crash by:

  • Looking at the full road and surroundings, including all lanes and signage
  • Routinely scanning the road for hazards and watching the behavior of other drivers
  • Staying in the right lane on an unfamiliar road
  • Remaining alert behind the wheel
  • Making yourself visible at night

If you see another driver taking the incorrect ramp or traveling the wrong direction, call 911.

In October, the state Department of Transportation unveiled a new wrong way driver detection system to help keep drivers from entering highway off ramps. Connecticut’s planned program has allocated $20 million to install these cameras across the state.
Were you or a loved one involved in a wrong-way crash? Bring your claim to the car accident lawyers at Trantolo & Trantolo. To learn more about our experience representing injured victims, contact us today.