In a recent early morning car accident in Milton, Massachusetts, one person suffered fatal injuries when a motorist traveling north in the southbound lane of I-93 near Exit 3 collided with another vehicle traveling southbound. There were few details about the crash other than that one of the occupants in the involved vehicles was ejected, and another was trapped inside the car. There was no indication of what led the culpable driver to be on the opposite side of the highway.
Wrong-way accidents tend to have a higher fatality rate than other accidents since they are often head-on collisions or opposite-direction sideswipe collisions.
Reasons for Wrong-Way Driving
A driver unfamiliar with a particular roadway that offers confusing signage may find himself traveling the wrong way. Most drivers quickly realize their mistake when they see cars approaching and take corrective measures. Unfortunately, there are instances when a driver fails to recognize the hazard that he has created and causes a tragic accident like the one in Milton.
Factors that can lead to wrong way driving include:
- Use of drugs or alcohol—as many as 75% of wrong-way drivers are under the influence
- Poor weather conditions
- Confusing signage
- Lack of signage
- Distracted driving
- Advanced age of the driver—impaired cognitive abilities, poor eyesight, or use of medication that impairs judgement
- Young or inexperienced drivers
- Drivers taking a short-cut
- Poorly marked entrance and exit ramps
- Lack of visibility caused by fog, rain, or other precipitation
- Car crossing median of a split roadway after an event with another driver in an accident or where a motorist suffers a heart attack or stroke
The majority of wrong way accidents occur between 12:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. when there are more intoxicated drivers on the road, and where darkness adds an additional hazard to a distracted, confused, fatigued, or otherwise impaired driver.
How to Avoid a Wrong-Way Accident
You can avoid a wrong-way accident by following these suggestions:
- Remain alert, especially at night, for signs of a hazard ahead such as brake lights, screeching tires, cars suddenly veering off the road, the sound of horns, and cars suddenly decreasing speeds
- Once you realize there is car coming towards you, immediately get off the roadway
- Do not flash your lights or honk at the risk of not taking action to get off the road
- Travel in the right lane at all times except when passing other cars. You have a better chance of avoiding a collision since a wrong way driver will typically travel in his right lane, which will be your left lane.
- Call 911 immediately if the wrong-way driver has not realized his/her mistake
If you find out too late that a head-on collision is unavoidable, then take your hands off the steering wheel at the last second. This will avoid the deployed airbag from breaking your wrists and causing powder burns on your arms. If you cross your arms while steering, an instinctive reaction that many people do in such circumstances, the airbag will hit your arms and possibly break your wrists, and will fling you backwards. This can cause a broken nose, broken forearm, and loss of teeth.
Traffic Measures to Avoid Wrong Way Accidents
Many towns and cities have instituted certain measures to curtail or avoid the instances of wrong-way accidents:
- Wrong-Way Signs—the most effective wrong-way signs are those with flashing borders and have reflective material. Sensors can detect a wrong-way driver and set off flashing warnings.
- No Left/No Right Turn Signs-if clearly visible– these can cut down on drivers making mistakes
- In-Lane Arrows—painting in-lane arrows on pavement approaching an intersection or entrance/exit ramp prevent taking a driver going in the wrong direction
Some roads have spikes that will tear a car’s tire tread to shreds if a driver takes the wrong direction, but these have not been shown to be effective in reducing accidents.
Damages in Wrong Way Traffic Death Claims
In wrongful death claims, the administrator or executor of the decedent’s estate can bring an action on behalf of the immediate family members. Damages may include:
- Lost income
- Medical expenses incurred during final treatment or care
- Pain and suffering if the decedent was observed to have visibly suffered
- Loss of the decedent’s love, guidance, counsel
- Funeral expenses
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent
Damages are a vital element in any injury or wrongful death claim. By retaining an experienced wrongful death lawyer, you stand a better opportunity in obtaining the most compensation for your claim.
Retain a Wrongful Death Lawyer from Burns and Jain
Be sure your claim is handled by a wrongful death lawyer from Burns and Jain. There are complex issues of liability and proof of damages in many cases that should only be handled by lawyers with extensive experience and resources. Call our office at (617) 250-8256 for a free and comprehensive evaluation of your injury claim.