It’s one of the most frightening scenarios for anyone using a Phoenix road: You’re in your car and encounter someone going the wrong way. If you’re driving on a highway such as I-17 or I-10, you may not have much time to react due to the speeds involved. The consequences can be grave. You may end up becoming a victim of a head-on wrong way collision or you may end up having to swerve. You could end up running off the road or colliding with another vehicle.

Recognizing the serious problem of wrong-way driver accidents, the state of Arizona has rolled out a plan in Phoenix to combat such collisions. The proposal calls for having sensors that would detect someone going the wrong way and alert law enforcement and other motorists.

The Associated Press on Nov. 24 reported on the wrong-way accident prevention plan in a story that was picked up by the Arizona Capitol Times, among other news outlets. The test project calls for the following:

  • Modifications to existing traffic sensors and installation of new ones to detect wrong-way motorists
  • Sending alerts to state troopers when a wrong-way driver is detected
  • Posting of warnings on highway message boards that a wrong-way driver is on the road
  • Triggering signals to stay red at on-ramps to the freeway to prevent vehicles from entering

The Devastating Nature of Wrong-Way Accidents

As attorneys who have represented victims of serious car accidents, we applaud such safety efforts.  Wrong-way driving accidents often have grave consequences. While government statistics show that these types of accidents a relatively rare, they often result in fatal and serious injuries when they do happen. Head-on collisions comprise the majority of these types of accidents. According to one study conducted in Virginia and cited by the National Transportation Safety Board, wrong-way accidents on highways have a fatality rate 27 times greater than other types of crashes.

The negligence in a wrong-way driving accident is clear. Someone struck by a wrong-way driver is almost always innocent of any wrongdoing. We often find that a driver who ends up heading in the wrong direction on a road is impaired by alcohol or drugs. According to the AP report published in the Arizona Capitol Times, 65 percent of such crashes between 2000 and 2014 involved drug or drugged drivers. The report states that Arizona’s impaired wrong-way driving accident rate is even higher than the national average of 60 percent.

The AP report cited recent deadly wrong-way driving accidents in the Phoenix area that resulted in the deaths of an off-duty Phoenix Fire Department dispatcher, an off-duty Mesa police officer and a young couple from Mesa.

Tips to Avoid a Wrong-Way Driving Accident

If you encounter a driver going the wrong way, you can take the following steps to avoid the crash or reduce the severity of the accident:

  • Stay out of the left lane on a highway unless passing another vehicle. Wrong-way drivers tend to stay on the right side of the road (which would be your passing lane on the left if you’re coming from the opposite direction).
  • Limit your distractions so you can have more time to react if you see a wrong-way driver.
  • Honk your horn and flash your lights to alert the wrong-way driver.
  • Stay in the middle lane if you’re on a three-lane highway. You will have the option to go left or right to avoid the wrong-way motorist.