Two men died, and two others suffered serious injuries, when the cars in which the people were riding collided head-on on U.S. 460 just outside the town of Rich Creek, Virginia (VA). The fatal accident northwest of Blacksburg in Giles County occurred on the night of October 17, 2014. Police say a 90-year-old behind the wheel of a Taurus was traveling east in the westbound lanes of the divided highway just prior to the crash. News reports do not indicate whether the at-fault driver crossed the median or entered the road going in the wrong direction.
Both drivers survived the wreck, but passengers in the Volkswagen involved in the collision lost their lives. Investigators determined that the elderly man who caused the crash was not drunk, but they will need to look into explanations for why the deadly accident happened. Given the man's age, confusion or a medical emergency cannot be immediately ruled out.
Wrong-way drivers cause many highway fatalities. Speed and heavy traffic flowing in the correct direction often make it difficult for victims to avoid head-on crashes. Plus, few people expect to see another vehicle coming directly at them, often at night or in the predawn morning, at greater than 60 mph. Whatever mistake or misjudgment led the driver at fault to travel in the opposite lanes of the highway, he now likely faces criminal charges for inflicting injuries and deaths. He is also likely liable for providing financial compensation to the men he injured and killed.
Even if the explanation is that, at 90, the man was too physically limited to drive safely, he cannot be excused for the physical and emotional damage he wreaked. Accidents like this one highlight both the need for using extreme caution when getting onto the highway and for knowing when to make the often difficult decision to surrender one's license to drive.
Whatever the crash investigation reveals, my Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our condolences to the friends and family members of the deceased victims. We also hope for a rapid recovery for the person injured through no fault of his own.