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A Look at Wrong-Way Driving Dangers and Prevention

Dangers of Wrong-Way Driving

New Hampshire auto accident attorneyThe Boston Globe reported on an accident in Nashua in April in which three people were treated for life-threatening injuries after a crash involving a vehicle going the wrong way on the F. E. Everett Turnpike. In September, Seacoast Online reported on a motorcyclist on the northbound interchange ramp of Route 1 in Hampton who was struck and killed by a Dodge Dakota heading southbound. Fortunately, tragic cases like this are not as common as other reports. Wrong-way accidents only make up about 1% of traffic fatalities, but they tend to have far more notable impacts because of the specific conditions in which they occur.

What is Wrong-Way Driving?

The Federal Highway Administration, a division of the U. S. Department of Transportation, defines a wrong-way driving crash as “one in which a vehicle traveling in a direction opposing the legal flow of traffic on a high-speed divided highway or access ramp collides with a vehicle traveling on the same roadway in the proper direction.” This definition places the focus on controlled highways and related ramps, rather than including vehicles that cross the center line or median on other roads. The high speed of this environment, and the tendency for wrong-way collisions to be head-on collisions or rapid sideswipes, mean that these accidents are usually more severe than other classes of collision, accounting for 300-400 fatalities per year on average. The FHA also includes a host of resources for learning more about wrong way collisions and their prevention, with one major resource being a special report conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board.


The NTSB ran a special report on wrong-way driving accidents, which was broken into four parts looking at what wrong-way driving is, how the NTSB has investigated it through the years, common characteristics of wrong-way collisions, and ways to prevent further collisions. On the last point, they classified four major areas of concern: various forms of driver impairment, changes to visibility for vehicles approaching entrance and exit ramps, systems to monitor and intervene on wrong-way driving, and in-vehicle driver support systems. Most of these solutions are things that would need to be developed on a governmental level, and technology is increasingly becoming a part of that picture. The major component the NTSB cites for driver impairment, however, is drunk driving. This, and other forms of impairment such as driving while tired, distracted driving, or driving under the influence of other substances, can and must be controlled by the driver. Taking precautions to avoid driving while impaired would go a long way toward preventing wrong-way collisions.

At the law firm of Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller, & Durkin, we urge all drivers to take responsibility for their actions and to consider the safety of themselves and others on the road before getting behind the wheel. Wrong-way collisions are incredibly dangerous for everyone involved and many incidents can be avoided. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a wrong-way collision, let us stand by your side by contacting us today.

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