There is nothing quite as frightening as seeing a vehicle or a pair of headlights heading right toward you as you are driving down the road. In that moment of panic and confusion, avoiding a collision can be difficult. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says that approximately 360 people die in wrong-way crashes in a given year.
Several scenarios can lead drivers to the wrong side of the road: turning the wrong way on a one-way street, crossing the center of the road into the wrong lane of travel, and entering a highway using an exit ramp. In some business and residential areas, motorists realize right away when they turn onto a one-way street, and are generally going at a slow enough speed to rectify the situation without causing an accident. Those who cross into traffic or end up traveling on the wrong side of the highway can cause catastrophic and fatal accidents.
In 2012 the NTSB conducted a special investigative report on wrong-way driving. The organization focused on accidents that occurred at high speed on divided highways. Here are some of the findings released in an NTSB fact sheet:
- On average, 360 lives are lost each year in about 260 fatal wrong-way collisions.
- 60 percent of wrong-way driving accidents involve alcohol.
- 78 percent of fatal wrong-way collisions occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
- 57 percent of these accidents happen on weekend.
- 19 percent of wrong-way drivers were operating a vehicle without proper licensing.
In Kentucky, our most notorious crash caused by someone driving the wrong way occurred in Carrollton, Kentucky on May 14, 1988, at 10:55 p.m. An intoxicated driver entered the highway from an exit ramp and came around a curb, striking a church bus (former school bus) full of children head on, killing 27 and injuring 34. Only 6 children escaped without serious injuries.