Frightening and Deadly: The Danger of Wrong-Way Accidents

Imagine you are driving on a high-speed roadway, separated from opposing traffic lanes by a physical driver. Imagine that, seemingly out of nowhere, instead of seeing the backside of the vehicle in front of yours, you are faced with another sight – headlights. It is a truly terrifying thought. Wrong-way drivers are, thankfully, not an everyday sight, but wrong-way accidents are a reality, and often a catastrophic one. Our Panama City car accident attorney is prepared to help those injured or left mourning by such a terrifying accident.

Recent Crash Where Wrong-Way, Impaired Driver Seriously Injured Officer and Civilian

Last week, we discussed an accident that left an officer and a civilian seriously injured, an incident also reported on by WMBB. Panama City Beach Police Captain Ronald Crowson was directing traffic at an accident scene on Sunday March 23 when an alleged drunk driver came speeding the wrong way on Panama City Beach Parkway.

Police had received reports of a wrong-way driver travelling west in the eastbound lanes, and patrol cars were just minutes behind suspect Richard Allen Johns. They were unable to apprehend him before he crashed into a disabled vehicle, starting a chain reaction crash that seriously injured both Crowson and Royce Kershaw, the owner of the disabled car. Police arrested Johns and charged him with DUI and wrong-way driving.

NTSB Study on Wrong-Way Accidents

In December 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") produced a report titled “Wrong-Way Driving.” They defined wrong-way driving rather narrowly, focusing only on vehicles travelling against the legal traffic flow on a high-speed divided highway or entrance/exit ramps to such roads. It does not include cases where a vehicle crosses a paved (or non-existent) median into opposing traffic lanes. While relatively infrequent, comprising only about 3% of accidents on divided high-speed roads, the NTSB studied the topic because wrong-way crashes are more likely than most other accidents to result in fatalities and/or serious injury.

On average, based on data from 2004 through 2009, approximately 260 fatal wrong-way collisions occurred each year, claiming around 360 lives annually. Of 1,566 studied wrong-way drivers, 936 (60%) had alcohol in their system at the time of the collision. This is likely below the number actually impaired since some blood alcohol data was missing from some incident reports. The majority of wrong-way drivers in studied incidents were between 20 and 50 years old.

However, drivers over 70 were over-represented as wrong-way drivers compared to the number of drivers over 70 who were the right-way drivers in the incidents (the NTSB considered the right-way drivers to be a representative sample of all drivers on similar roads at the time of the collisions).

The report lists recommendations aimed at a wide range of groups from the Federal Highway Administration to groups of states to police groups. Topics covered include: creating safe on/off-ramps, including well-marked exit ramps that deter/prevent wrong-way entry; improving programs for older drivers; using alcohol detection technology; a call for additional research into preventative measures, and more.

Helping Florida's Wrong-Way Crash Victims

Wrong-way accidents are relatively rare, but rarely don't leave behind serious injuries or death when they occur. If wrong-way driver (including incidents that wouldn't meet the NHTSA definition but that most lay people would consider a wrong-way driving crash) causes injury to you or a loved one, call us. Our Panama City wrong-way crash lawyer can help you recover monetary damages from the person whose negligent, careless driving led to the incident.

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