A tragic Seminole County accident left a mother and son dead recently when the driver was traveling northbound in a southbound lane on State Road 417 near Rinehart Road. WFTV reports the accident occurred shortly before 11:30 P.M. The driver and her son were both killed, and a second teen passenger in the car with the wrong-way driver sustained serious injuries. The motorist in the other vehicle that was struck head on also sustained serious injuries. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.
This accident occurred at night, as the vast majority of wrong-way accidents do. National Transportation Safety Board data shows 78 percent of wrong-way collisions occur between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM. These crashes are more likely than other accidents to be deadly, with studies showing wrong-way accidents cause anywhere from 12 to 27 times the number of fatal wrecks as any other accident type. Because wrong-way crashes are so often very serious, it is important to understand causes of wrong way car accidents to develop effective methods of prevention.
Causes of Wrong Way Accidents
Safety Transportation indicates 75 percent of wrong-way accidents happen on rural roads. The vast majority- also 75 percent- happen on undivided two lane roadways. There are numerous reasons why these accidents happen, including drivers who take curves too fast, and drivers who are drunk, drowsy, or distracted and who cross over a double yellow line. Drivers trying to pass on two lane roadways are also a cause, but only 4.2 percent of wrong-way accidents occur when one driver is trying to pass or overtake another.
Wrong-way accidents are also very common on highway on ramps, highway off ramps, and freeways. These occur because drivers get onto the highway going in the wrong direction. Common causes of these types of crashes include alcohol, age-related infirmities affecting senior drivers, road design issues, and simple confusion among motorists.
Alcohol is a factor in 60 percent of wrong-way highway crashes. Senior drivers also have disproportionately higher rates of these crash types, with seniors 70-79 involved in 2.5 percent more wrong-way accidents than motorists a decade younger and seniors 80 and over involved in 30 times more wrong-way accidents.
Cloverleaf designs at highway entrances also increase wrong-way crash risks according to Federal Highway Administration, because this design style puts highway entrance and highway exit ramps adjacent and parallel. This forces left turning drivers to go past the wrong lane before getting onto the highway.
Understanding the causes of wrong-way accidents is key to prevention. NBC News reported on some of the different methods that have been demonstrated to help reduce risks of wrong-way accidents including:
- Better markings on pavements.
- Lower "Wrong Way" signs.
- Lower "Do Not Enter" signs.
- Red reflectors.
Lower signs have proved to be more visible to the headlights of a car at night. Experts also indicate drivers who have been drinking generally tend to position their heads lower, so they may be more able to see the signs and avoid getting onto the highway going in the wrong direction.