Wrong-way accidents, which happen when a vehicle ends up traveling against traffic on a divided highway, are often deadly. It usually occurs because a driver confuses an on-ramp for an off-ramp, or vice-versa.
Data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicates that these kinds of wrecks are on the rise. From 2010 to 2014, the number of deaths associated with wrong-way crashes increased 34% over the previous five-year period.
What makes wrong-way accidents more likely at this time of the year?
While wrong-way crashes can happen at any time, the holiday season may be particularly prone to them because:
- There are more drunk drivers on the roads. Intoxication is the number one contributing factor to wrong-way accidents since inebriated drivers are more likely to get confused about their location and are less likely to quickly realize they’re going the wrong way. Since a lot of holiday cheer tends to come from a bottle, there are more tipsy or drunk drivers out there who can make critical mistakes.
- It’s dark a lot earlier. Most wrong-way wrecks happen after dark when it can be harder to see road signs and stay oriented to the rest of traffic. The early sunsets during the winter season can make wrong-way crashes much more likely, especially for older drivers suffering from age-related vision deficits.
- More people are traveling. Many people travel during the holiday season, so the roads are typically congested everywhere you go. Whenever traffic volume increases, so does the risk of a serious accident. In addition, many travelers are trying to navigate unfamiliar roads, which increases the chance of directional confusion.
If you see a wrong-way driver, move as far away from them as possible and call 911 as soon as you can do so safely. If you’re injured in a wreck with a wrong-way driver or a loved one is killed, find out more about your legal options.