Has anyone out there come up with the solution to prevent wrong-way accidents? Probably not, because they are still happening and lives are being lost. If you do have a suggestion, please send it to us, and we will do a follow-up article on this subject. It would be good to see how many different ideas we can think of. One thing that has been suggested for the motoring public to do is immediately report someone driving in the wrong direction to law enforcement. The law does provide an exemption for cell phone use while driving in case of an emergency.
If wrong-way driving is seemingly rare, why is it that about 350 people are killed and thousands more are injured every year as a result of people driving the wrong way? This problem isn’t going away, even though researchers are looking for a way to keep it from happening. In an attempt to curb a rising number of wrong-way crashes in the Fort Worth area, the Texas Department of Transportation, along with the Texas Transportation Institute, researched the causes of this deadly driving phenomenon. Their findings were, not surprisingly, that most drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that most wrong-way drivers entered the highway by getting on at an exit ramp. Their findings also showed that crashes between vehicles going the wrong way are usually severe and more likely to result in serious injury or death. Also, they may be more likely to involve elderly drivers, and happen usually at night or early morning.
A common suggestion is to place road spikes at exit ramps. This type of barrier has been tested to determine if they could be used at off-ramps to stop vehicles from entering the wrong way; however, this idea isn’t feasible. The spikes, even modified in shape, do not cause the tires to deflate quickly enough to prevent a vehicle from entering the freeway. Stubs could also be left to damage the tires of right-way vehicles. And, as it was pointed out, if you did stop a wrong-way car with road spikes, then you have a stalled car sitting at the exit ramp. (Of course, that’s better than on the freeway).
Another approach being tried by the state of Texas is installing sensors in the asphalt on several highway on-ramps that can detect when a car is travelling the wrong way. The sensors can’t prevent drivers from getting on the highway going the wrong way, but they can send an alert to local police, who could possibly have a better chance of stopping the driver than for a driver to phone in a 911 call. Florida and New Mexico have installed sensor systems that can detect wrong-way drivers and alert oncoming cars of potential dangers. (Good plan).
The TTI study showed that impaired drivers are looking down at the road in front of their car, and don’t look up, so they don’t see the “Do Not Enter” or “Wrong Way” signs that are displayed about 7-feet high. The federal government wants to approve 2 ft. high reflective signs, which will also help drivers with poor night vision. Another possible solution is reflective pavement bumps placed at ramps to indicate the correct direction. The bumps are arranged to form an arrow that points in the correct direction to travel.
It is agreed by authorities that elderly or confused drivers on the wrong side of the road, will pull over, once they have realized what’s happening. Inebriated drivers are not that concerned with signs, or anything else. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers, and other companies are working on a system that is designed to prevent anyone with a blood-alcohol content higher than 0.08 from operating a vehicle. Then drunken or drugged drivers couldn’t leave their parking spots. That would eliminate a large number of the crashes that occur. Hopefully, when this technology is developed, it will become standard on all cars. Until that scenario comes to pass, we must encourage drivers to have designated drivers when they plan to drink at a party, or stay home! There may be occasional cases when someone with a health problem cannot get control of their car. In this instance, it would be better if they had someone else drive them to their destination rather than take a chance.
Lastly, if judges would punish the DUI offenders by keeping them off the streets, we would all be much safer. Too often, you read a story about an innocent person(s) who lost their life to a driver under the influence, who had already been convicted of DUI more than one time. Where’s the justice for those victims? Think about it this way, you wouldn’t want to meet someone going the wrong way in your lane. We must pay attention when we are driving and avoid any “chance meetings”.
Seriously, please send in your comments and ideas on how we can correct this deadly problem! Thanks.