Why Are Wrong-Way Driver Accidents Often Catastrophic?

When a driver enters a roadway from the wrong direction, it can easily result in a serious head-on collision, catastrophic injuries, and even death. Wrong-way accidents have some of the most severe consequences since they involve two vehicles traveling at high speeds and making direct contact with one another. A collision caused by a wrong-way driver is more likely to cause fatalities. In fact, a study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the fatality rate for wrong-way driver accidents in Virginia is 27 times greater than any other kind of car accident. If you are seeking legal guidance after being injured or losing a loved one in a car accident caused by a wrong-way driver, contact a Virginia Beach accident attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today. 

Wrong-Way Accident Statistics

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that more than 2,000 people were killed in wrong-way accidents on divided highways from 2015 to 2018. This averages out to 500 fatalities every year. While these kinds of collisions comprise a mere 3% of all highway car accidents, they are more likely to cause catastrophic injuries and death.  

How Do Wrong-Way Accidents Happen?

Wrong-way collisions occur most often on highway exit and entrance ramps, and one-way streets. The driver traveling in the wrong direction is often unaware they are doing so until it is too late to avoid a terrible accident.  

Some of the most common negligent driving behaviors that lead to wrong-way car accidents include: 

  • Drivers under the influence: One of the leading causes of wrong-way car accidents is drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When a driver is inebriated, their judgment, vision, reaction time, and other essential driving skills are adversely impacted, making them more likely to go the wrong way down a road, highway entrance ramp, or exit ramp.  
  • Distracted drivers: The term “distracted driving” encompasses more than just cell phone use behind the wheel. It includes any activity that takes a driver’s eyes off the roadway, hands off the wheel, or mind off of safe driving. This includes drinking, eating, personal grooming, and even engaging with a passenger. A driver whose focus is on something other than the task at hand can easily miss a one-way sign or take a wrong turn. By the time they become aware of their mistake, it may already be too late to avoid a head-on collision.  
  • Fatigued drivers: Drivers who are sleep-deprived are no less dangerous than drivers who are drunk. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to realize when they are too tired to safely operate a motor vehicle. When a driver is nodding off or falls asleep behind the wheel, their vehicle can drift over the centerline or they can miss important road signs warning them that they are about to make a wrong turn, both of which can lead to devastating accidents. 
  • Missing or obstructed signage: Some wrong-way car accidents are caused by obstructed or missing road signage. If road signs are not promptly replaced after being knocked down, or vegetation obscuring a sign is not trimmed back, a driver may not realize they are traveling in the wrong direction. In these cases, the ensuing claim would be brought against the governmental entity responsible for roadway or sign maintenance. If a missing or obstructed road sign was the cause of your wrong-way accident, it is important that you get in touch with an experienced accident attorney in Virginia Beach as soon as possible.  

What Makes Wrong-Way Accidents So Dangerous?

It should go without saying that wrong-way driving often leads to head-on crashes, which tend to be exceptionally violent because the vehicles strike one another with full momentum. This, combined with the abrupt deceleration caused by the collision, magnifies both the impact force and the severity of any injuries. A research study performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that roughly 60% of head-on accident victims endure significant physical injuries, as opposed to only 18% of other types of accidents.  

In addition to the immediate physical danger, wrong-way accidents also take a heavy psychological toll on survivors. The recovery process for these emotional injuries often extends beyond a hospital bed and includes long-term therapy.  

What Are the Potential Consequences of a Wrong-Way Accident?

Wrong-way accidents occur most often at night, on divided highways with higher speed limits. When two vehicles that are driving in opposite directions collide head-first, especially at highway speeds, catastrophic and even fatal injuries are often the result. Common wrong-way accident injuries include:

  • Head injuries/Traumatic brain injuries
  • Internal bleeding/Internal organ damage
  • Spinal cord damage/Paralysis
  • Crush injuries
  • Traumatic amputations
  • Broken bones
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Wrongful death

Our Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys are here for you every step of the way.

Am I Entitled to Compensation for My Wrong-Way Accident?

Wrong-way accident victims have the right to seek financial compensation from the negligent driver for their injuries and damages. Although every accident is different, some forms of compensation that are commonly considered in wrong-way crashes are:  

  • Current and projected medical expenses
  • Lost earnings and future lost earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • In rare cases, punitive damages may be possible

Practicing Injury Law Since 1985

Consulting with an experienced Norfolk personal injury attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help you understand your rights, and determine how much recovery you are entitled to collect. If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, we can take your case to trial as we did for this client when we secured her a $3.5 million jury verdict after she was hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way. If you were injured or a family member was killed in a wrong-way car accident in Norfolk, call us at (833) 997-1774 or fill out our online inquiry form to schedule your free consultation. Our offices are located in Norfolk, Hampton, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach. 

Related Content