Causes of Wrong Way Accidents in North Carolina
In 2012, drivers crossing the center line or going the wrong way contributed to causing 7,734 collisions in the state of North Carolina. North Carolina Department of Transportation Traffic Crash Facts report drivers going the wrong-way were a contributing cause of 220 fatal crashes and 3,742 injury crashes.
When drivers travel in the wrong direction, their actions often result in a head-on car crash. These accidents are among the deadliest on the road. To save lives, motorists must understand causes of wrong way accidents in North Carolina and must do everything they can to mitigate risks.
Causes of Wrong Way Accident in North Carolina
Head-on accidents happen more in rural than urban areas, with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicating 13 percent of rural collisions are head-on and only seven percent of urban collisions are head-on. The higher instances of head-on crashes in more rural areas may be accounted for, in part, by more two-lane roads where drivers must go into the opposing lane across a divided yellow line to pass other vehicles.
Freeways, entrance ramps to freeways, and exit ramps to freeways are also areas where more frequent head-on crashes occur due to drivers traveling the wrong way. One of the most dangerous types of on/off ramp designs is called a cloverleaf and it occurs when there is an exit lane running adjacent and parallel to an entrance lane. Drivers can easily become confused about which lane to turn into, especially those making left turns who will have to drive past the exit lane before getting to the entrance lane.
While road design can make the risk of wrong way accidents greater, it is usually driver behavior and decisions made by motorists that cause wrong-way accidents. For young motorists, it is very common for drivers to be drunk when they go in the wrong direction.
Overall, National Transportation Safety Board reports 60 percent of collisions involving drivers who go the wrong way involve a driver who is above the legal alcohol limit. Among motorists in the 20-39 age group, 65 percent of wrong-way accidents involve a drunk driver, with this group more likely than others to be impaired.
Young motorists ages 20 to 50 are the demographic group involved in the most wrong-way accidents, and nighttime is the highest risk time for wrong-way collisions (78 percent of crashes with a driver going the wrong way occur between 6 PM and 6 AM).
Seniors have an outsized risk of wrong way crashes as well after reaching age 70. Those in the 70-79 group have a 2.5 times greater chance of causing a head-on accident as a result of going the wrong way compared to motorists a decade younger. For motorists over 80, the risk climbs to a 30 percent greater chance of a wrong-way accident.
Motorists need to stay sober and those who have aging relatives need to make sure the seniors in their lives are still able to drive safely. These actions alone could address the major causes of wrong-way accidents and could help reduce fatalities and injuries from head-on collisions.