Earlier this year, one of my Carolina wrongful death law firm colleagues highlighted the alarming, and growing, number of fatal wrong-way collisions on the interstates through and around Charlotte. Sadly, the early morning hours of March 25, 2018, saw two more names added to the list of drivers killed in head-on collisions on I-85 and I-485.
The NC State Highway Patrol received reports of a black Hummer going the wrong on the Inner Loop near Exit 19 to Oakdale Road at 3:13 am. Just before troopers could arrive to stop the wrong-way driver, he collided with a pickup truck. Both the at-fault 42-year-old male driver and the 22-year-old woman driving the pickup died at the scene.
Investigators could not immediately determine where or why the man behind the wheel of the Hummer entered I-485 going in the wrong direction. Our own experiences helping families of individuals who got killed by wrong-way drivers leads us to suspect that a mix of confusion and intoxication played a role in leading the driver who caused this most-recent fatal head-on in Charlotte to use an off ramp as an on ramp.
Research by the National Transportation Safety Board cited elsewhere on our website showed the following:
- The most common type of wrong way driving [WWD] was a vehicle entering an exit ramp. … This could be caused by the driver being unfamiliar with the area he or she is driving in or the exit had signage which was not clear;
- The majority of WWD accidents occur in the lane which is closest to the road’s median;
- There is a higher probability of a WWD accident occurring at night compared to the daylight hours. Almost 80 percent of these crashes happen between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Some of the possible reasons cited were lack of visibility, drowsy drivers, and drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and
- More WWD crashes occur on the weekends than during the week.
The deadly crash on the Inner Loop near Oakdale Road shares all the other listed characteristics of a “typical” head-on collision caused by a wrong-way driver. It would be tragic, but not surprising, to learn that drunk or drugged driving claimed two more victims.
It is worth noting, however, that WWD can have many causes. During 2016, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles recorded 2,770 traffic fatalities and 167,400 crash-related injuries. The wrecks were attributed to causes such as alcohol use, drug use, disregarded road markings, disregarded traffic signs other than stop and yield signs, inattention, use of improper lane, and operated vehicle in erratic, reckless, careless, negligent or aggressive manner. Any of those may have factored into causing the head-on collision on I-485.