Experts say there is a continuing and troubling pattern of wrong-way crashes on South Florida roadways. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) defines wrong way driving as “vehicular movement along a travel lane in a direction opposing the legal flow of traffic on high-speed divided highways or access ramps.”
A study published by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in April 2015 found 280 wrong-way crashes killed 75 people and injured more than 400 on Florida highways between 2009 and 2013. Sixty of those crashes, or 21 percent, occurred in Miami-Dade County; ten of them were fatal.
According to the FDOT report, the majority of wrong-way crashes occur on weekends and in the late night / early-morning hours. Alcohol and/or drug usage was also common in freeway/expressway crashes in Florida. Most drivers range in age from 16 to 24 and those over the age of 65 (elderly drivers).
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that about half of all passenger vehicle occupants killed on America’s roads die in frontal crashes. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) reports that driving the wrong way on freeways has been a nagging problem since the interstate highway system was founded in the late 1950’s.
Some are asking whether highway planners could do more to prevent drivers from barreling head-on into oncoming traffic. Most wrong way movements involve a vehicle entering an exit ramp. A lack of or unclear signage and barriers are faulted in wrong-way crashes. In an effort to prevent or reduce wrong way accidents, FDOT began a pilot program by installing solar powered, flashing signs to warn wrong-way drivers and to also alert authorities to their presence in the summer of 2015.
So what do you do when confronted by someone who made the mistake of wrong-way driving? The SaveAmerica.org recommends some of the following defensive driving tactics:
- Swerve to the right – to try and avoid the wrong-way driver. Most wrong-way drivers get on freeways and immediately go all the way to the right side of the freeway, or the fast lane, because they think it is the slow lane. If drivers stay right, they will have a better chance to avoid a head-on collision with a wrong-way driver.
- Heads up – Look up, look ahead, and scan the freeway frequently. Do not drive distracted and give yourself time to see the danger coming. Make sure you have room around you to maneuver.
- Show your intentions – If you have the time, try to be as clear as possible with your signal lights as to your intentions. You can try honking your horn or flashing your lights to get their attention.
- Buckle-up & look out for the safety of others – The majority of crashes involving wrong way drivers are head on collisions and side-swipes. In these types of crashes, the difference between whether you survive and the extent to which you escape severe injury depends considerable on if you are wearing your seatbelt. If you have a cell phone in your car, pull over as soon as possible after avoiding the wrong-way driver and call 911 to report the situation. Give the dispatcher the license plate number, a description of the vehicle, and location and direction of travel.
- Quick! What color are reflectors on the road? – Did you answer white or yellow? That’s good, it means you’re driving the correct direction on the road. Pay attention to the pavement markings. The road’s solid yellow line should always be on the driver’s left side and white on the right. If you are seeing red reflectors on the road, it’s you who is on the wrong side; stop and turn around.
If you or a loved was injured or killed in a wrong way accident, contact The Hollander Law Firm for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights.