How Common are Wrong Way Accidents?
Most people will never have the unfortunate experience of seeing a vehicle moving toward them on the highway, going the wrong way. In Phoenix in 2017, these represented just one out of 10,000 crashes. But more than likely, they sparked immediate terror. And that terror is justified. Nearly a quarter of the time a wrong-way crash results in someone getting killed. Nationwide, that amounts to about 350 people a year. Other types of crashes aren’t nearly as deadly. The overall fatality rate in traffic accidents is about .5 percent. It’s a serious enough problem to cause Arizona governor to sign a law declaring that wrong-way accidents be considered a felony in the state.
Preventing Wrong-Way Accidents
Like most accidents, driving the wrong way involves a mistake in driving skill due to one or more types of impairment. Drivers going the wrong way are often speeding or driving recklessly. More than two-thirds are intoxicated, and other types of distraction, such as cell phone use is common as well. Forty percent of the intoxicated drivers have a blood alcohol level of at least twice the legal limit. In the rare case where alcohol or drugs are not involved, drivers are often elderly.
The Arizona Department of Transportation is taking this problem seriously as well and have taken the innovative step of installing thermal cameras on I-17 in addition to standard deterrents, such as bold signage with messages such as “Do Not Enter” or “Wrong Way.” The cameras are designed to further signal the driver’s error by flashing a wrong way message on the exit. Another message is sent to law enforcement, and at the freeway’s entrance in an attempt to warn drivers going the right way.
When Do Wrong-Way Crashes Happen?
The most common time for a wrong-way crash is right around one or two in the morning, especially on the weekends. Most of the time the drivers live in the state and are usually male.
Defending Yourself Against a Wrong-Way Driver
Seeing a vehicle speeding toward you on the freeway will likely surprise you. If it happens, slow down and move away from the driver, preferably off the roadway. Call 911 and report the incident.
If you haven’t been involved in a wrong-way crash, it is easy to write off these incidents as rare and try to worry about it, but the victims are real. A few examples include
- Two students of Grand Canyon University in Phoenix in April 2017
- Another crash on State Route 51, two months later, which prompted more strict enforcement for wrong-way drivers.
- In March of 2019, a wrong way accident killed four people on I-10. The driver, who was in a pickup, and three people in a van going the right way were all killed.
Fighting Wrong-Way Drivers
Even with the state aggressively working to eliminate wrong-way accidents, they are still happening. If you are involved in one or lose a loved one because of a wrong-way driver there is something you can do about it.
Holding drivers accountable by reporting them when you see them is a good start. There are many instances where the new measures in place are working. Footage of wrong way cameras is showing that many drivers do turn around and go the right way after entering the freeway the wrong way initially. Department of Public Safety Officers are quick to respond in order to catch up with wrong-way drivers as quickly as possible and get them off the road. With their high impairment rate, they aren’t exactly safe to have on the road, even going in the right direction.
Aside from reporting the incident to authorities, you may also want to call your attorney. Reporting is similar to reporting other crashes. Take pictures, record audio, turn on your dash camera and file a police report if you are able to. Always remember to take care of anyone who is injured.
Often in auto accidents, a person will not feel injured due to an initial adrenaline rush from simply having survived. Later, the pain catches up. Talking to an attorney sooner rather than later will help keep the incident and your injuries connected and increase your chances of receiving compensation for your injuries, or from your losses in a wrongful death lawsuit. Just because law enforcement has increased for these accidents doesn’t mean your fight will be any easier. Criminal charges are completely unconnected to your personal injury claim.
At Petersen Johnson, we see a lot of different types of injuries from auto accidents, slips and falls, dog bites, and more, and have helped many get compensation beyond what they might receive by filing a standard insurance claim. Even the most “neighborly” insurance agents are ultimately working for the insurance company, and often do not get their clients what they deserve to cover both current and future related bills that step from an accident.
To learn more about how you can get the compensation you need after an Arizona wrong-way accident, contact Petersen Johnson at 602-903-2617.