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Why do wrong-way car accidents happen on the interstate?

In theory, no one should get into a head-on crash on the interstate. Traffic should all move in the same direction going one way and in the same direction – on the opposite side of the interstate – on the other. Opposing traffic should be kept apart by a barrier or a median.

With that said, wrong-way car accidents on the interstate can and do happen. They can be very dangerous and have very high fatality odds. Below are some common causes of these accidents:

  1. Driver error or confusion: Sometimes, drivers become disoriented or confused, especially during nighttime or in poorly marked areas, and inadvertently enter the interstate in the wrong direction.
  2. Impairment: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs significantly impairs judgment, vision and reaction time, leading some individuals to enter the interstate in the wrong direction. This is the top reason for wrong-way accidents, with most impairment coming from alcohol. Drugs can also be involved, however.
  3. Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions can affect a driver’s cognition, perception or consciousness, potentially causing them to drive in the wrong direction unintentionally. An example of this is if a driver is suffering from a degenerative brain disease as they get older, so their memory and cognitive abilities are slowly getting worse. They could make a critical error that they never would have made at a younger age.

Wrong-way accidents on interstates are particularly dangerous and often result in severe or fatal injuries because of the high speeds at which cars and trucks are traveling. Two cars that are each moving at 75 miles per hour, for instance, would collide at a cumulative 150 miles per hour.

Can you avoid them?

If you see a wrong-way driver, there are some steps you can take to avoid a crash:

  • Move into the right-most lane
  • Reduce your speed
  • Pull off of the road
  • Call the authorities when it’s safe to do so
  • Don’t engage the wrong-way driver, who is likely severely impaired

With that being said, you can’t avoid all accidents. These types of accidents happen very quickly. Even if you try to stay safe, another motorist could cause an accident that leads to severe injuries or the death of a loved one. You may deserve compensation for medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages and more. Seeking legal guidance right away can help you to better understand your rights and options under the law.