It’s every driver’s worst nightmare: encountering a vehicle driving the wrong way towards you. Fortunately, wrong-way crashes aren’t very common. They account for only about 3% of all accidents. However, they are more likely to be fatal than any other type of crash. They result in about 350 fatalities annually, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Wrong-way drivers are often under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Some are simply confused. They may not know an area well and accidentally get on a road that they don’t realize is one-way a lane designated for traffic traveling in the opposite direction.
It’s not surprising that, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 70% of these crashes are between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. They’re also most common on the weekends.
We aren’t completely helpless when it comes to wrong-way drivers. We can avoid spotting them before it’s too late by scanning the road ahead and around us continuously as we drive. Many of us focus on the car directly in front of us. However, if you scan the road ahead as far as you can see, you can better prepare for a slow-down, stop and other potential danger ahead — like a wrong-way driver.
Simple defensive driving practices, like avoiding distractions and being extra cautious when driving at night and on the weekends, can help you spot wrong-way drivers in time to get out of the way. If you are driving on a road with multiple lanes, you’re less likely to encounter a wrong-way driver if you stay in the right lane (or at least not in the far left lane). Over 75% of wrong-way crashes are in the lane next to the median, according to the NTSB.
If a wrong-way driver is approaching you, get into another lane (or the shoulder) immediately. If you have just a few seconds or less, it’s better to swerve than to apply the brakes. Once you’re safely stopped, you or someone in your vehicle should call 911 immediately and report the driver so that law enforcement can get them off the road.
If you or a loved one has been injured or worse by a wrong-way driver, you have the right to take legal action regardless of what traffic and criminal violations the driver is charged with. This can help you get needed compensation for expenses and damages.