A driver who was involved in a fatal wrong-way collision that killed a Columbus woman is pleading guilty to causing the fatal wreck. Columbus Dispatch reports the driver had a blood alcohol concentration of .19 at the time of the accident. This is more than double the legal limit. The impaired driver was traveling west in the I-70 eastbound lanes for up to 15 miles before finally hitting an eastbound car head-on.
Wrong-way accidents are a leading cause of head-on crashes, as drivers who go in the wrong direction on highways or other roads are likely to strike other vehicles directly. These car accidents are among the most dangerous, so understanding causes of wrong-way accidents is essential to preventing motor vehicle fatalities. If drivers understand causes of wrong-way accidents and avoid engaging in high-risk behavior, most head-on collisions can be avoided.
Why Do Wrong-Way Accidents Happen?
Wrong-way accidents can happen when confusion, impairment, vision, or cognitive issues cause a driver to travel in the incorrect direction on a roadway and hit another car head-on.
Most of the drivers who are involved in these accidents are young. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports the majority of wrong-way drivers are age 20 to 50. However, risks also rise once a driver has passed age 70. Drivers 70 to 79 are 2.5 times as likely to get into wrong way accidents than drivers a decade younger, and drivers age 80 and over are 30 times as likely to get into wrong-way crashes as people in their 70's.
The causes of wrong way crashes among young and old drivers vary significantly. Like in the Columbus crash involving the driver facing criminal penalties, most crashes involving young people are drunk. The driver in that crash was 24, and NTSB reports 65 percent of drivers between the ages of 20 and 39 who were involved in wrong-way accidents had a BAC above the legal limit at the time they were driving in the wrong direction.
Older seniors, on the other hand, are more likely to get into a wrong-way crash because age-related cognitive decline or other ailments associated with aging have affected their driving abilities. Prescription drug use can also cause impairment in some seniors, with 76 percent of adults 60 and up taking at least two prescription drugs on a monthly basis.
Aside from alcohol and age, road design and simple confusion can also be a reason why drivers become involved in wrong-way crashes. Parallel adjacent entrance and exit lanes cause confusion and increase wrong-way crash risks according to U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. "Do Not Enter" and "Wrong Way" signs that are too small, too high, or otherwise hard to see can contribute to causing these crashes as well.
Driving at night may also make it more difficult to avoid a wrong-way crash, with a full 78 percent of these types of collisions happening between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Drivers should be especially careful and pay close attention during evening hours to help reduce risks of wrong-way head-on accidents.