Arizona Works to Reduce Wrong-Way Driving Accidents
By Zachary Mushkatel on March 28, 2016
Obeying traffic laws, driving defensively and avoiding risky behavior behind the wheel may prevent you from causing an auto accident. Unfortunately, these practices may not protect you from becoming the victim of a car accident caused by a careless or reckless driver.
For example, you may be driving down the road in a perfectly safe, reasonable manner when suddenly you see a vehicle going the wrong way and coming straight at you. You could be facing a devastating, catastrophic accident through no fault of your own.
Over the last year, Arizona highway officials have conducted extensive studies to determine the exact nature of wrong-way accidents, the impact on motorists throughout the state and available measures to prevent these crashes.
Why Do Wrong-Way Accidents Occur?
According to a 2015 Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) study, nearly 400 people have been seriously injured as the result of wrong-way accidents in Arizona over the last 10 years.
Wrong-way crashes can be particularly deadly, the study shows. The agency reports that twenty five percent (25%) of all wrong-way crashes result in deaths. In comparison, only one percent of other types of crashes result in a fatality.
In the ADOT study, traffic safety experts identified several contributing factors in these crashes, including:
- Distracted driving – Drivers that text or talk on their cell phones while driving or who are distracted by GPS devices may be more likely to enter an interstate on an exit ramp rather than an onramp, or they may be more likely to take the wrong turn onto a one-way road.
- Driving while impaired – Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is shown to be a factor in as many as 60 percent of all wrong-way crashes.
- Environmental factors – Driving at night or before sunrise and driving in adverse weather conditions such as dust storms or heavy downpours can greatly increase your risk of being involved in a wrong-way accident by causing you to miss signs on the road.
- Senior drivers – Drivers over the age of 70 face special problems such as impaired vision, health problems or the need to be on medications, which can impact their driving ability. Roughly 10 percent of all wrong-way crashes over the 10-year period analyzed by ADOT involved senior drivers.
- Inexperienced drivers – Newly licensed drivers may lack the attention to detail and good judgment that comes from years of experience behind the wheel.
The ADOT study also revealed that wrong-way accidents may be caused by those with suicidal intentions and those who are racing to evade capture by law enforcement officers.
What Is Arizona Doing to Prevent Wrong-Way Crashes?
The study conducted by ADOT is part of a larger plan to address the issue of wrong-way accidents in Arizona and increase the safety of motorists.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the state is looking at establishing a prototype system to reduce these crashes by:
- Enhancing highway sensors
- Installing newly configured signage on major arteries.
In an ADOT news release about the prototype system to prevent wrong-way accidents, officials used the 2015 study to identify Interstate 17 in Phoenix as the best place to establish the system. Initial plans involve using a three-to-four-mile stretch of the heavily traveled freeway.
The prototype would use pavement sensors to detect traffic movement and detect wrong-way movement on the highway. The sensors would send alerts to ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center and the Department of Public Safety and post warnings on overhead message boards along the interstate.
ADOT would also add hundreds of larger DO NOT ENTER and WRONG-WAY signs, placing them lower on the roadways and more in line with drivers’ vision.
What Should You Do If You Encounter a Wrong-Way Driver?
Wrong-way accidents do not only impact residents in Arizona. They are a significant problem for drivers in California as well.
KCRA News reports that as many as 100 wrong-way accidents occur each year on California freeways and interstates. Sources interviewed by KCRA emphasized the dangerous and potentially deadly nature of these types of crashes.
They also offered the following tips in the event you encounter a wrong-way driver:
- Always keep your eyes on the road and be attuned to traffic clues from the cars ahead of you such as decreased speeds, flashing brake lights or car horns.
- Keep in mind that wrong-way drivers instinctively use what they think is the slowest lane, which is the right lane. Unfortunately, they end up being in the fast lane, closest to the median strip.
- As soon as you see a driver headed in the wrong direction, get your own vehicle out of the way as quickly and as safely as possible.
- If you see a wrong-way driver, flash your high beams. You can also honk your horn and do whatever else is reasonably possible to warn other drivers.
- Once you are off the road and out of danger, call 911 to report the driver.
In addition to the above, you can help to prevent wrong-way accidents and ensure your own safety by continuing to avoid dangerous driving behaviors such as distracted driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Our Phoenix Car Accident Lawyers Can Help You
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as the result of a car accident that was caused by another driver, contact Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, today. Our experienced car accident lawyers understand the serious consequences of wrong-way crashes and other types of auto accidents. We want to help you to pursue the compensation you deserve.
We can investigate the cause of your accident. We can also prepare your case for settlement or trial and work tirelessly to seek compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.
We take a team approach to representing our clients, using the full extent of our firm’s skill, experience and resources. To learn more and received a free consultation, call us today or reach us online. We serve clients throughout Phoenix and surrounding areas, including Sun City, Scottsdale, Glendale, Surprise and Peoria.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.