Reversible, restricted HOV lanes on I-395 in Alexandria, Virginia (VA), served as the site of a fatal head-on collision on the morning of April 9, 2015. The deadly wreck occurred near the exit to Route 236/Little River Turnpike and within sight of Landmark Mall. The drivers of the two cars that crashed into each other while going in opposite directions lost their lives. A third driver, unable to avoid the wreckage, suffered injuries.
The driver who caused the multivehicle crash had been traveling north at a time when the HOV lanes were open only to southbound traffic. Police could not immediately determine how the at-fault driver managed to enter the roadway going the wrong way. Series of concrete barriers, lighted signs and guard arms are in place at each entrance and exit along the HOV lanes to block and discourage wrong-way drivers. In addition to determining whether the man who caused the deadly wreck was confused, lost, impaired by drugs or alcohol, or acting intentionally, investigators will need to look into whether barriers got moved or if gates and digital warning signs malfunctioned.
This HOV head-on is a variation on a too-common, always tragic situation in which a driver uses an highway off ramp as an on ramp. Whatever reason a person has for doing so--whether an error or a deliberate act--heading into oncoming traffic at high speed sets the stage for needless loss of life and disabling injuries.
Individuals who fall victim to wrong-way drivers often cannot avoid collisions simply because the unexpectedness of seeing another vehicle coming right at them startles them into freezing. On a heavily used stretch of interstate like the Inner Beltway for Washington, DC, where this wreck occurred, the sheer number of other cars on the road makes steering away from a threatening head-on impossible. Preventing senseless deaths and injuries requires drivers to recognize and respect restrictions for on ramps and exits.