While it is common for drivers in Montana and elsewhere to encounter drivers while traveling on various roads, it is not as common to encounter a driver traveling in the wrong direction. Despite it not being a frequent occurrence on the road, it is an extremely dangerous situation for all travelers near the wrong-way driver. Therefore, it is important to gain a better understanding of how drivers travel in the wrong direction and the hazards this poses.

According to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation report from 2012, roughly 360 lives are lost each year due to a wrong-way collision. In this report, the NTSB analyzed fatal wrong-way accidents occurring from 20014 through 2009. During that time, 1,566 fatal wrong-way crashes occurred, resulting in 2,139 fatalities.

The investigative report found that wrong-way crashes were more likely to result in fatal and serious injuries than any other types of highway accidents. Of those incident analyzed in this report, over 80 percent involved a head-on collision a high speeds.

With regards to the characteristics of a wrong-way collision, it was discovered that roughly 60 percent involved alcohol. It was also found that nine percent of the wrong-way drivers occurring in the timeframe of this report had a previous DUI conviction within the last three years. It was also determined that 15 percent of wrong-way collisions were caused by drivers over 70-years-old.

When determining the cause of wrong-way driving, the primary origin for this was entering an exit ramp. Other actions include making a U-turn on the mainline of the highway or using an emergency turnaround through the median. It was also found that 78 percent of fatal wrong-way crashes occur between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. and 57 percent occur on the weekends.

While understanding the facts and causes of wrong-way driving could help reduce wrong-way accidents, this unfortunately will not prevent these fatal collisions from occurring. Those impacted by a wrong-way driver should understand they might have recourses available to them, helping them place liability on the wrong-way driver.

Source: Ntsb.gov, “Special Investigation Report: Wrong-Way Driving,” Dec. 11, 2012