It is a primal fear of many drivers: being killed or severely injured in a collision involving vehicles traveling the wrong way on high speed divided highways. While wrong-way driving collisions are rare — they represent 1 percent of fatal crashes each year according to the U.S. Department of Transportation — they result in 300 to 400 deaths per year.
If you see a wrong-way driver, you should just get out of the way as quickly as you can, warns AAA.
Driver impairment by alcohol and distracted driving have been identified as leading factors in wrong-way driving collisions, research reveals.
“All too often, wrong-way crashes occur because an impaired driver enters the highway headed the wrong-way on an exit ramp,” said AAA Public Affairs Manager, Cindy Antrican.
The National Transportation Safety Board found that seven of nine wrong-way collisions it investigated tended to take place in the lane closest to the median, the majority of fatal wrong-way driving crashes are on high-speed divided highways, and usually happen at night and on weekends, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
In addition to getting out of the way quickly, here’s what to do if you spot a wrong-way driver, according to AAA:
- If a wrong-way driver approaches, slow down and move as far to the right as possible.
- Even if there is no shoulder, still try to move as far to the right as possible.
- When driving at night, travel in the center lane so you can move to the right or the left to avoid a wrong-way driver heading in your direction.
- On a four-lane highway, stay in the right lane at all times, unless you can see the taillights of a vehicle in front of you in your traffic lane.
- Avoid slamming on your brakes if there is a vehicle directly behind you.
- Do not swerve off of the road or into other lanes to escape a wrong-way driver.
- Honk your horn, flash your headlights, and turn on your hazard lights.
- Pull over as soon as possible after avoiding a wrong-way driver and call 911 to report the situation.
- Give the dispatcher the license plate number, a description of the vehicle, and/or the location and direction of travel.