Among other things, the Long Star State recently ranked number one in the nation for distracted driving deaths and consistently leads all other states in truck and 18-wheeler accident fatalities.
Now a new study has revealed yet another significant risk facing Texas motorists – wrong-way drivers.
Wrong-Way Driving Deaths Rose 34% Nationally, 29% in Texas
“Wrong-way crashes on divided highways are often fatal as they are typically head-on collisions,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “And unfortunately, as the data shows, fatalities from these crashes are on the rise.”
According to the latest data analysis from AAA, there were 2,008 deaths from wrong-way driving crashes on divided highways between 2015 and 2018, an average of approximately 500 deaths a year. That is up 34% from the 375 deaths reported annually from 2010 to 2014.
Across Texas, the average number of wrong-way deaths rose from 60 per year between 2010-2014 to 77 per year from 2015 through 2018. That’s an increase of 29%.
Drunk Driving Among Leading Wrong-Way Driving Factors
The study’s authors also examined eight major contributors to wrong-way crashes, and three stood out: alcohol impairment, older age, and driving without a passenger.
In fact, the analysis showed that six in 10 wrong-way accidents involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Those with blood alcohol concentrations over the legal limit of 0.08 g/dl were significantly more likely to be wrong-way drivers than non-alcohol-impaired drivers involved in the same crashes.
Drivers over age 70 are more at risk of wrong-way driving than their younger counterparts, even though older individuals spend less time on the road and drive fewer miles per trip than younger people.
And nearly 87% of wrong-way drivers were alone in their vehicles at the time of a crash, suggesting passengers can raise the alarm when a vehicle begins to drift into the wrong lane and even helping drivers take the necessary corrective action.
Reducing Wrong-Way Driving Crashes and Deaths
AAA and the National Transportation Safety Board have long urged policymakers to take steps to mitigate the potential for drunk driving and wrong-way crashes, including:
- Mandating the use of alcohol ignition interlock devices that prevent a vehicle from starting until the driver provides a breath sample that registers below a pre-set low limit.
- Increasing the use of drunk driving checkpoints and other high-visibility enforcement efforts.
- Installing more-visible traffic signs and signals that follow national standards and at proper locations.
- Changing state laws to help identify medically at-risk drivers, both physically and cognitively.
To protect yourself and others on the road:
- Never get behind the wheel if you’ve been using alcohol, marijuana, or other mind-altering substances. Don’t use such substances if you know you’ll be driving.
- Stop driving if you become sleepy. Fatigued drivers can fall asleep at any time, drift into the opposing lane, and cause a crash.
- Focus your gaze up ahead on the road, constantly moving your eyes from the rearview mirror to the side mirrors, so you’ll spot any potential hazards.
- To ensure you’ll have time to spot a wrong-way driver, put your phone away and avoid other distractions while driving.
- Keep your hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock on the steering wheel. You’re more likely to stay in full control of your car should you need to make a sudden maneuver.
- If you find yourself in the path of a wrong-way driver, hit your brake and pull your wheel to the right, even if there are cars next to you. Avoiding a head-on collision will give the best chance for survival.
- Always wear your seatbelt.
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