Deadly wrong-way driving crashes are on the rise in the U.S. according to a new study from the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety. In its latest data analysis, there were 2,008 deaths from wrong-way driving crashes on divided highways between 2015 and 2018, an average of approximately 500 deaths a year. That is up 34% from the 375 deaths annually from 2010 to 2014. Researchers found that the odds of being a wrong-way driver increased with alcohol-impairment, older age, and driving without a passenger.
�Wrong-way crashes on divided highways are often fatal as they are typically head-on collisions,� said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. �And unfortunately, as the data shows, fatalities from these crashes are on the rise.�
AAA works with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other traffic safety organizations to educate drivers on the deadly impact of wrong-way driving. In light of these latest research findings, AAA and the NTSB are urging state transportation agencies to adopt driver-based countermeasures that address these factors, such as alcohol ignition interlocks, strengthened deterrence strategies like sobriety checkpoints, driver refresher courses for older adults and the installation of more visible signs and signals.
3 Biggest Factors in Deadly Wrong-Way Crashes
AAA researchers examined eight factors related to these types of crashes, and three stood out � alcohol-impairment, older age, and driving without a passenger.
* grams per deciLiter
Impairment is on the NTSB�s MOST WANTED LIST of Transportation Safety Improvements which is the agency�s premier advocacy tool. The list identifies the top safety improvements that can prevent crashes, minimize injuries, and save lives. Impairment in transportation is not limited to just alcohol; it also includes impairment by other drugs�legal or illicit.
�Alcohol impairment is, by far, the single most significant factor in the majority of wrong-way driving crashes, which unfortunately has not changed since the NTSB issued its Wrong-Way Driving special investigation report in 2012,� said NTSB Director of the Office of Highway Safety, Dr. Rob Molloy.
�The important work done by AAA shows that we need to redouble our efforts to address this safety hazard. We know that interventions like ignition interlock devices for all offenders and high-visibility enforcement operations will reduce these types of devastating crashes.�An alcohol ignition interlock device prevents a vehicle from starting until the driver provides a breath sample that registers below a pre-set low limit, usually around a BAC of .02. It is the best countermeasure we have to separate drinking from driving.
In addition to alcohol ignition interlock devices and high-visibility enforcement, AAA and the NTSB want state policymakers to consider widely used effective infrastructure countermeasures, such as installing more-visible traffic signs and signals that follow national standards and at proper locations.
Because older drivers are over-represented in wrong-way collisions, AAA and the NTSB also urge states to change their laws to help identify medically at-risk drivers, both physically and cognitively, to keep everyone safely driving as long as possible.
AAA and the NTSB remind drivers to use common sense before getting behind the wheel.
AAA Foundation researchers examined the number of fatal wrong-way crashes and the number of people killed using data from NHTSA�s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Characteristics of wrong-way drivers were compared with �right-way� drivers in the same crash to identify factors associated with increased odds of being a wrong-way driver in these types of crashes.
March 31, 2021