Two people were recently killed following a wrong way crash on Route 50 in Anne Arundel County. The driver was determined to have been heavily intoxicated at the time, with a blood alcohol level four times the legal limit. Christine Parks drove the wrong way and caused a head-on collision that led to the death of both drivers and several other injuries. Greg Shipley, of the Maryland State Police, says that the investigation is ongoing and that wrong way crashes have been occurring more frequently across the state. Thus far, the police have found that Route 50 does have sufficient signage in place geared at preventing these occurrences.
Wrong-way driving is defined as vehicle travel in the opposite direction of the intended flow of traffic. The problem has caught the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) due to the severity of the accidents that result. Although wrong-way accidents only occur in roughly 3% of high-speed accidents on highways, they have a much higher likelihood of having more severe injuries and fatalities. The U.S. Federal Highway Administration estimates that there are 350 fatalities each year from wrong-way travel. The fatality rates are approximately 27 times greater compared to other sorts of accidents and are very likely to involve head-on collisions at high rates of speed.
Errors among drivers cause the majority of wrong-way crashes. The most common causes of such accidents include the following:
- Distracted driving: Use of mobile devices, GPS units, and other components
- Driver age: Those over 70 years of age tend to have poorer vision and increased medication usage that may hinder driving performance
- Intoxication: Roughly 60% of these accidents involve a driver operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Inadequate signage or dimly lit signage
- Physical conditions: Including heavy rain, snow, or dust that limits visibility
- Improperly designed exit or entrance ramps
- Drivers who are tired, drowsy or fatigued
Encountering a vehicle traveling the wrong way can be a very disturbing occurrence. One key means of prevention is to more broadly scan the area that you are approaching. This means previewing the lanes of travel that you will encounter in the distance. When you are able to look further ahead, you may allow yourself more time to react to a vehicle that is traveling in the wrong direction. One key tactic is to exit the lane you are traveling or use a turning maneuver to elude the approaching vehicle.
Traveling in the right lane on multi-lane roads may reduce the risk of encountering a wrong way driver, as oncoming vehicles are more likely to be in the left lane. Remain alert and focused on the road to better be able to detect dangerous motorists. Avoid driving when you are feeling tired, as your reaction time may not be as good as it ordinarily is.