Two drivers died in a wrong-way crash on the beltway around the west side of Charlotte, North Carolina (NC), early in the morning of January 27, 2018. The deadly wreck was the second such incident near the I-485 exits to West Boulevard this month, and it continues a trend of Charlotte being the deadliest city for wrong-way crashes in the Tar Heel State that dates back to at least 2000.
NC State Highway Patrol troopers had spotted the wrong-way driver before this most-recent crash happened, but they could not catch up with and stop him in time to prevent the deadly wreck. The resulting head-on collision left both drivers dead from their injuries at the scene. Investigators suspect alcohol use on the part of the wrong-way driver contributed to causing the crash.
The man who was apparently driving while impaired has been identified as 27-year-old Jeremiah Bellard. News reports also identified the wrong-way DWI victim as 68-year-old Jose Carpio, who was reportedly on his way to work at around 4 am.
Television station WSOC-TV spoke with state troopers in the days after this fatal collision near the line where Charlotte becomes Mecklenburg County. The officers said that “they have already investigated a third as many wrong-way crashes in Mecklenburg County [during 2018] than they did all last year.”
The troopers further explained that “most of the wrong-way crashes involve either drugs or alcohol.”
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I have long recognized that getting drunk or abusing drugs greatly raises a driver’s risks for mistaking an interstate exit ramp for an on ramp. While all efforts must be made to keep people from driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs, DWI is not the only explanation for wrong-way collisions.
When the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration studied the problem, the agency found that older drivers with vision and cognitive issues, drivers suffering medical emergencies and poor ramp design also led to wrong-way collisions. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is working to address the interstate exit ramp design issue by pilot-testing a system of sensors and flashing lights to detect and warn drivers who go up off ramps.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I encourage all efforts to prevent wrong-way driving because another major finding from the NHTSA analysis was that divers going the wrong way on the interstate are very likely to take their own lives and to kill or cause serious personal injuries to other people.