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AAA: What to do if you spot a wrong-way driver heading in your direction

Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2018 @ 6:17 AM
Updated: Tuesday, July 30, 2019 @ 8:47 AM

Wondering how we shot this story without actually driving backwards on the highway? John Bedell gives a behind-the-scenes look at our camera set-up and process shooting our piece "Tech to fight wrong-way driving."

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.

>> 3 things to know if you spot a wrong-way driver 

If you see a wrong-way driver, you should just get out of the way as quickly as you can, warns AAA.

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 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.

>> First wrong-way driver detector corridor launches in Ohio on I-71

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.