In January, a twenty-nine year old driver caused a fatal accident driving the wrong way on Interstate 295 near the intersection with Interstate 95 here in Jacksonville. The car crash happened at 4:00 a.m. Sadly, a sixty-nine year old military veteran and grandfather died as a result of the accident. The wrong way driver was also critically injured in the crash.
Hours after the accident, the blood alcohol level of the wrong way driver was .117 – well above Florida’s .08 maximum blood alcohol level. Given that alcohol in the blood dissipates at the rate of approximately .015% per hour, a two hour delay between the accident and blood testing would put the driver’s blood alcohol level at .147, nearly twice the legal limit. The wrong way driver was not arrested for driving under the influence/manslaughter until last week – six months after the collision.
Wrong way car accidents are much more common than many people think. During 2015, there were 1490 wrong way crashes in Florida alone – more than four per day. Because wrong way car accidents typically cause head-on collisions, the injuries that result are often tragic. This is illustrated by the 96 fatalities and 1454 injuries that resulted from 2015’s 1490 crashes. In more than two-thirds of wrong way car accidents, the driver was either injured or killed.
Whenever I hear of a wrong way accident, I tend to assume the driver going the wrong way was intoxicated; however, the statistics do not support this presumption. With respect to Florida’s wrong way collisions in 2015, fifty-one percent of the at-fault drivers were not intoxicated at the time of the crash.
There are things you can do to minimize your chances of being involved in a wrong way car accident. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, interstate and freeway drivers should stay in the right lane, especially at night, to avoid the chances of being struck by a wrong way driver. According to the Department, most fatal wrong way accidents take place in the left or center lane.
Of course, it is also very important to take steps to ensure you do not enter an expressway going the wrong way. As referenced above, many wrong way drivers were not intoxicated. To prevent such mistakes it is important to: avoid driving while drowsy; avoid distractions, such a cellphones, while driving; and not driving after dark if your night vision is impaired.
In addition, Florida’s Department of Transportation is implementing new measures in an effort to reduce wrong way accidents. FDOT is installing additional signage at expressway exit ramps warning drivers that they are proceeding in the wrong direction. FDOT is also installing flashing lights at exit ramps and using radar to detect wrong way drivers headed up exit ramps. When the radar detects a wrong way driver, emergency alert signage warns others drivers to be on the look out for the wrong way vehicle.