Two people went to the hospital after a predawn head-on collision on the interstate in Portsmouth, Virginia (VA), and the at-fault driver got charged with driving while impaired. The wrong-way crash happened at the I-664/I-264 interchange on March 18, 2018.
Virginia State Police responded to reports of the wreck just before 6 am. They determined that the driver of a Ford F-150 pickup truck had been traveling west in the eastbound lanes of I-644 before he struck a Chevy Suburban. Both people in the Suburban were taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.
It is unclear from news reports where the wrong-way driver entered the interstate going in the wrong direction. It was also not reported whether the Portsmouth resident will face charges other than DWI.
What is obvious is that this head-on collision illustrates once more how much danger drunk or drugged drivers pose. In 2017, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recorded 7,285 alcohol-related crashes on state roads and highways. Those DWI crashes caused 4,430 injuries and 258 deaths. In Portsmouth alone during 2017, 58 people suffered injuries in alcohol-related crashes, and 13 others died in wrecks in which one or more driver was drunk.
Impairment by alcohol is a leading cause of wrong-way driving. One of the most-common errors made by drivers who are under the influence is mistaking an interstate exit ramp for an on ramp. When the National Transportation Safety Board studied that problem, its researchers reached these two principal conclusions:
- Wrong-way collisions occur most often at night and during the weekends.
- Driving while impaired by alcohol is the primary cause of wrong-way driving collisions; more than 60 percent of wrong-way collisions are caused by drivers impaired by alcohol.
Both descriptions of a typical wrong-way crash apply to the incident at the I-664/I-264 interchange in Portsmouth. The research also confirms what my Virginia personal injury attorney colleagues and I have seen during more than 30 years of helping victim of drunk drivers and wrong-way drivers.
People under the influence of alcohol have trouble reading and understanding highway signs. Once they make an initial mistake, they find it difficult to recognize the problem or act appropriately to reduce or eliminate the risks for causing a collision that could leave others injured or dead. While the wreck in Portsmouth did not kill anyone, it probably would not have happened at all if the at-fault driver had stayed out of his pickup or handed his keys to a sober friend.