North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers suspect the man who drove his van the wrong way around the I-485 Inner Loop in Charlotte on the evening of January 14, 2018, was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The man caused two hit-and-run collisions before crashing head-on into a car, killing both himself and the driver of the car.
The incident happened shortly before 7 pm near Exit 6 to West Boulevard. Two people in the vehicles the van driver struck suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. The person behind the wheel of the car he collided with appears to have died from a combination of impact trauma and burns suffered when the car burst into flames before emergency responders could pull the person free.
Law enforcement officials who spoke with reporters from WSOC TV said that driving while impaired explains the majority of wrong-way crashes in North Carolina and around the United States. Highway safety officials are currently augmenting efforts to curb DWI by developing and testing technologies to identify and remove wrong-way drivers from highways as quickly as possible.
Currently, the NC Turnpike Authority is repurposing the pavement sensors and traffic cameras it uses to catch toll runners to alert state troopers to cars, trucks and vans that go up exit ramps. The system being piloted in Raleigh lights up flashing Wrong Way and Do Not Enter signs along ramps, transmits videos and emails to toll watchers, and prompts toll watchers to radio troopers in the area.
Reducing the number of wrong-way drivers to as close to zero as practical is important for saving lives. While just 200 wrong-way crashes were reported on North Carolina interstates and tollways from 2006 through 2016, those wrecks resulted in 59 deaths and 260 injuries. And just since Thanksgiving 2017, three people have lost their lives in wrong-way collisions on I-485 around Charlotte.
The two people who were injured by the van driver in this most-recent wrong-way driving incident have strong ground for filling personal injury claims against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Likewise, the family of the person in the car who died should strongly consider filing claims for a wrongful death. Even though the at-fault driver did not survive, his auto insurance coverage will remain in effect until all valid claims get settled or go to court for resolution. Consulting with a dedicated Carolina personal injury lawyer and a caring Carolina wrongful death attorney will help all the people affected by this almost surely preventable tragedy understand their legal options.