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Wrong-way traffic fatalities going up

Taking a wrong turn in a vehicle can have deadly consequences. There were 2,008 deaths from wrong way driving crashes on divided highways in this country between 2015 and 2018, according to recent data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Alcohol impairment, driving without passengers and older age are the major causes of these personal injury accidents.

Rising trend

The AAA’s data indicates that there were an average 500 deaths each year in these crashes. This is 34 percent increase from the 375 yearly deaths reported for 2010 to 2014. Alcohol-impairment, older age and driving without a passenger were prominent among the eight possible causes examined for these accidents.


An alcohol-impaired driver was involved in six in 10 wrong-way accidents. Drivers with blood alcohol concentrations over the legal limit, 0.08g/dl, had a substantially higher likelihood of being involved in a wrong-way accident than non-impaired motorist in the same crash. Alcohol impairment remained the major cause of these accidents since 2012, according to the NTSB.

Ignition interlockers, along with high-visibility enforcement, was recommended to help prevent these crashes. This device prevents the ignition of a vehicle from starting until the driver submits a breath sample below a pre-set limit which is usually a BAC of .02.

In addition to alcohol, motorists must be aware about the impact of other substances. Marijuana and certain prescription medications may also dangerously impair drivers.

Driving alone

Driving with passengers may also reduce the risk of these accidents. Almost 87 percent of wrong-way drivers were alone. Passengers can help drivers take corrective actions by warning or alerting them that they are driving onto a one-way road.


Drivers over 70 also posed a greater risk. Drivers in the 75-79 age group were over-represented in these crashes although they spent less time driving and drove fewer miles for each trip than younger drivers. The NTSB and AAA recommended states to change their laws to identify drivers who have medical or cognitive issues.

Other recommendations

The NTSB and AAA also recommended the installation of improved infrastructure such as more-visible traffic signs and signals at certain locations that comply with national standards.

Drivers should not drive when they are sleepy because fatigue also plays a role in these accidents. It reduces reaction and time and judgment.

Victims of these accidents may face serious injuries and losses. An attorney can help them seek compensation from a negligent or reckless driver.