A recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) shows that traffic deaths from wrong-way collisions are on the rise in the United States. And, recent news reports suggest that the situation is even worse in Massachusetts.
AAA looked at data from two consecutive four-year blocks of time, specifically involving fatal wrong-way collisions on divided highways. Nationwide, they saw a 34% increase in wrong-way traffic fatalities. Shortly after the report, news sources in Massachusetts reported that the increase in wrong-way traffic deaths in Massachusetts across the same time had been greater than 77%.
Wrong-Way Crash Causes
Wrong-way crashes can occur for many reasons, including a driver being in an unfamiliar area, insufficient signage, poor lighting, and other factors. However, the AAA study revealed that certain driver characteristics significantly impacted the risk of a wrong way traffic fatality.
Operating Under the Influence
Unsurprisingly, one of those factors is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Wrong way drivers were more than five times as likely as those driving in the right direction to have blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater. Researchers also determined that a driver with blood alcohol content of .08% or greater was more than 18 times as likely as a sober driver to be involved in a fatal wrong-way collision.
Another significant factor in the likelihood of a driver being involved in a wrong-way fatal collision is age. Specifically, drivers aged 70 and older are at significantly increased risk. A driver aged 70 to 79 is about 4 times as likely to be involved in a fatal wrong-way crash as one aged 40 to 49. Past the age of 80, the likelihood leaps again. In fact, a driver between the ages of 80 and 89 is about six times as likely to be involved in a wrong-way fatality as a driver in their 70s. That’s about 27 times as likely as a driver in their forties.
The reasons a driver who was operating under the influence might be more likely to be traveling in the wrong direction, and to fail to avoid a collision, are fairly obvious. We know that an intoxicated driver is less observant and slower to respond. While the correlation with advanced age might not be quite as readily apparent, older drivers may also experience slower reaction times. In addition, some older drivers are suffering decline in their vision and hearing, and may have less mobility.
These older drivers’ vulnerability may also play a role in the likelihood of being involved in a fatal wrong-way crash. Elderly people who may be more frail, and may have underlying medical conditions, are more likely than younger healthier people to die in a motor vehicle collision.
But, the third factor AAA identified is less self-evident. Drivers with passengers are less likely to be involved in fatal wrong-way collisions. One possible reason is that a driver with a passenger has an extra set of eyes in the car, and so may be more likely to be alerted if they are about to use an exit to enter or turn the wrong way on a one-way street.
Liability for Wrong-Way Crashes
If a wrong-way collision is caused by a distracted driver, a driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or a driver who is in some other way negligent, the negligent driver is likely responsible for damages caused to other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and anyone else who may have been directly harmed by the accident. Even an elderly driver who may have been attentive on the road and making every effort to drive carefully may be deemed negligent if they should have known that they were not in a condition to drive safely. The same is true for fatigued drivers and others with illnesses they know may make driving risky.
If you have been injured by a wrong-way driver in Massachusetts or have lost a loved one to a wrong-way collision, you should speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Kevin P. Broderick helps injury victims in Massachusetts and New Hampshire fight for the compensation they deserve. He offers free consultation to injury victims and surviving family members. You can schedule yours right now by calling 978-459-1792 or filling out the contact form on this page.
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