The Dangers Presented by Wrong-Way Drivers

If you’ve been driving for a while, you probably feel like you’ve seen it all. Most of us have observed cars and semi-trucks pass by at speeds better saved for a race track. Absent-minded drivers run through stop signs or red lights and pass stopped school buses. Automobiles and trucks haul trailers without brake lights, apparently assuming everything will work out anyway. People follow too closely, weave in and out of traffic, and concentrate on text messages instead of the road.

While any of these dangers can cause loss of life and serious personal injury in the blink of an eye, there is one nightmare scenario most of us hope never to experience – the dreaded wrong-way driver.

What Is a “Wrong-Way” Driver?

Most of the time, when we discuss wrong-way drivers, we’re referring to drivers on a divided highway or access ramp that are driving in the opposite direction of that which vehicles are legally permitted to move on that roadway.

Examples would be a vehicle entering an interstate on an exit ramp or driving eastbound on the westbound side of a highway or interstate. Sometimes, drivers are confused and turn on to the wrong ramp. Many times, drivers are impaired, making matters even worse.

The Dangers of Wrong-Way Drivers

Luckily, wrong-way accidents constitute only 3 percent of high-speed crashes. Unfortunately, when they occur, the results can be harrowing. From a family of five killed in Kentucky to multiple motorists killed in a crash in Texas, even the most cursory of internet searches turns up fatal wrong-way crashes which have already occurred this year.

And Oregon isn’t spared from the danger. For example, news outlets reported that a wrong-way driver crashed into a semi-truck on December 31, 2018, near Cottage Grove. Another wrong-way driver caused a crash on October 22, 2018, on I-5 in Portland.

Causes and Results of Wrong-Way Driving

A report prepared for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) reviews data from a number of different sources and studies and provides some interesting observations.

While these crashes are relatively infrequent, they are more likely to result in death or serious injury. Factors that often contributed were intoxication, gender (male), having a history of driving infractions, and being a young or old driver. Certain types of roadways and interchange configurations also played a role.

Measures to Reduce Wrong-Way Driving

Governments can take helpful steps, such as those outlined in the ODOT Report discussed above, to construct roadways and place signage in a manner to help avoid driver confusion. Driver education and law enforcement measures aimed at curbing impaired driving can also help lessen the chance that a wrong-way driver is on the road.

Unfortunately, no matter what steps are taken, there will always be drivers who violate rules of the road and endanger others. In fact, one study showed that many wrong-way drivers had already had their licenses revoked but chose to drive anyway.

When these types of people cause injury, the legal system must, and does, step up to hold them accountable for their wrongdoing. In Oregon, when a driver acts negligently, as a wrong-way driver or in any other way, the law will hold the wrongdoer responsible for personal injury or wrongful death caused.

Call with Questions

If you have suffered personal injury as the result of another driver’s negligence, you may have questions about insurance, your rights, or how to proceed. If so, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are happy to answer those questions for you – just give us a call. While it is our hope that all Oregonians escape the dangers of wrong-way drivers and other wrongdoers, we are ready to help protect society by holding them accountable for their actions.


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