Traffic accidents can come from all sides, but those that are head-on may be the most frightening. It can be hard for our brains to process something that is suddenly in front of us and completely out of the ordinary. How did that vehicle get on the wrong side of the road? Which way should I swerve? Did I miss something – am I the one on the wrong side?
A highway special investigation report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reveals that each year there are more than 350 deaths, on average, due to wrong-way collisions. When two cars traveling in opposite directions crash into each other, the results can be catastrophic. These types of wrecks involve drivers and passengers being thrown forward – into the airbag if belted and into the windshield if not. The deploying of airbags can cause injuries, as can the restraining force of seatbelts. Eye injuries, head injuries, bruises, fractures, punctured lungs and hematomas are common.
Unbelievably, one of the latest local wrong-way crashes was on purpose. A suicidal Miami Beach man who posted on his Facebook account that he was depressed and wanted to take his own life by driving the wrong way, did just that. He deliberately drove north in the southbound lanes of the Florida Turnpike and crashed into a tractor-trailer south of Griffin Road. There have been many other recent wrong-way crashes throughout South Florida:
- In December, 2015, a California driver traveled the wrong way on I-95 near Miami Gardens Drive and crashed into a car carrying a family of four. All five people involved in the wreck were killed.
- In November, 2015, a woman was killed after she drove the wrong way along Coral Ridge Drive in Coral Springs and plowed into a taxi.
- In September, 2015, two sisters died when a driver slammed into them going the wrong way on I-95 in Martin County. That month also saw a wrong-way driver killed on impact during a collision on the Sawgrass Expressway and four people killed in a wrong-way wreck along U.S. 27 in western Broward County.
Wrong-way driving may be due to driver distraction, insufficient signs and confusing road markings. However, the No. 1 cause of wrong-way crashes is driving while impaired. According to a study by the Florida Department of Transportation, alcohol and/or drugs were involved in 45 percent of the 280 wrong-way crashes that occurred on Florida’s highways between 2009 and 2013. This is more than 16 times the alcohol and/or drug involvement proportion for overall freeway and expressway crashes in Florida. The study also discovered that the majority of wrong-way crashes occur on weekends in dark conditions. A report by the National Transportation Safety Board agrees -- 78 percent of fatal wrong-way collisions occurred between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., perhaps due to reduced visibility, increased tiredness and higher probability of intoxication.
Sometimes, wrong-way driving happens when an operator makes a U-turn or cuts across the median into oncoming traffic. However, the majority occur when a driver mistakenly enters an exit ramp. While changes in traffic operations take time, suggested solutions currently include better pavement markings, mounting warning signs closer to the ground (approximately three feet), using oversized signs, better roadway lighting and installing wrong-way detection systems at problem interchanges.
The only real defense against wrong-way drivers is to watch ahead, and, if you are on the highway at night, experts recommend staying in the right lane since many impaired drivers travel in the left lane (which they perceive as the right lane). As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has been the trusted advocates for countless traffic collision victims. We are highly experienced in handling a wide range of auto and truck accident cases, and we know how to assist families who have lost loved ones in wrong-way accidents. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a case evaluation form.