It is the most frightening sight most drivers could imagine: you’re heading down the highway and suddenly, a car or truck is headed straight towards you, driving the wrong direction in your lane. This has become an increasing problem on our roadways in the Clearwater Area.
In 2015 Hillsborough County alone saw 129 incidents of collisions caused by wrong-way drivers. Pinellas saw 72 and Pasco County saw 49 wrong-way crashes. (More recent data was unavailable at the time of this post.)
While drinking and driving is linked to many wrong-way accidents various other factors could be in play. Sometimes a person is not familiar with the area, a driver may be distracted, or even having a medical episode. The majority of wrong-way drivers in Florida appeared in normal condition while ¼ were under the influence of medications, drugs, or alcohol. (2015)
What can you do if you are faced with this situation?
“Stay Right at Night” to avoid crashes. Statistics have shown that 7 out of 9 wrong-way collisions occur in the lane closest to the median. Statistics also show that most wrong-way collisions occur between the hours of 9pm and 2am. While driving at night is best to travel in the far-right lane so that you can pull over more easily if you see a vehicle traveling towards you in your lane.
If you see a wrong-way driver in your lane, immediately reduce your speed and pull off the roadway, also make sure to report it by calling 911.
Stay alert- do not drive distracted and NEVER drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Learn and obey all traffic signs. If you drive past a wrong way sign, turn around immediately.
What is being done to prevent this situation?
Since 2014 the Florida Department of Transportation installed new wrong-way signs and reflective arrows at more than 150 interstate exits throughout most of the Bay Area. Some of these signs are electronic and flash red lights if they sense a wrong-way driver. When a driver enters an on-ramp the wrong way, the driver strikes a sensor activating flashing lights attached to a wrong-way sign on selected on-ramps. The idea is to alert wrong-way drivers to their dangerous mistake, so they can stop and self-correct their direction. Florida Highway Patrol says when the lights flash, 99% of drivers realize their mistake and turn around before entering the interstate in the wrong direction.
In the event a driver does pass one of the electronic signs, the system also alerts other drivers by posting a message on electronic traffic signs warning a wrong way driver may be heading towards them. Finally, the system also alerts police.
If you have been hit by a wrong-way driver and you were lucky enough to survive, you understand how much your life has been impacted. You may be suffering serious injuries, your ability to work may have been impaired, just getting through your day without pain may be a thing of the past. You may never be able to fully recover from the extent of your injuries.
If this is the case, you need to consult an experienced Personal Injury attorney to learn and understand all your rights. Typically proving negligence in a wrong-way accident in Florida is easier than it is in other cases, but it is still important to hire an experienced attorney to represent your interests.
Attorney Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury attorney located in Safety Harbor, Florida. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident or slip and fall accident, please call 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie at www.chelsielamie.com.