Last week, a 60 year old Columbus resident passed away after being involved in a wrong way collision. The accident occurred just before 3:00 a.m. when a woman driving a Toyota Corolla turned south on a northbound road into oncoming traffic. Her car struck an SUV with two occupants, which then spun around and hit a third car. Four people were injured in the crash and one lost her life. These types of tragic car accidents are especially devastating and, unfortunately, on the rise in Ohio.
Wrong Way Driving Defined
Wrong way driving is defined by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as the movement of a vehicle in a direction opposing the legal flow of traffic on a high-speed divided highway or access ramp. This definition usually only covers freeways and exit ramps and excludes collisions resulting from a driver crossing a median. While collisions caused by wrong way driving only account for around three percent of accidents on high-speed divided highways, they are much more likely to result in fatal or serious injuries than are other types of crashes. This is because almost all wrong way crashes involve at least one head-on collision or opposite direction sideswipe. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), between 300 and 400 people are killed each year as a result of wrong way collisions.
Causes of Wrong Way Collisions
Many wrong way crashes involve one of the following factors:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Distracted driving;
- A driver’s inability to see;
- Impairment due to advanced age;
- Visual impairments caused by overgrown foliage;
- Poorly marked roads;
- Lack of warning signs; and
- Poor lighting.
Most wrong way crashes occur in the early morning hours or late at night when drivers are more likely to be fatigued or confused and visibility is low. Drivers who are unfamiliar with the area may also be more likely to drive in the wrong direction.
Regardless of the cause, wrong way collisions have devastating consequences and often result in the death of at least one party. Because impacts usually occur head on and at high speeds, drivers are usually unable to react in time to slow down or swerve out of the way. As a result, drivers and passengers alike are more likely to sustain serious or life-threatening injuries in wrong way crashes, including:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI);
- Spinal cord damage;
- Internal bleeding and organ damage;
- Crushed bones;
- Paralysis and nerve damage;
- Burns; and
- Severe lacerations.
These types of catastrophic injuries are painful, expensive to treat, and often result in permanent disability or scarring. Victims may be required to undergo numerous reconstructive surgeries, undergo intensive physical therapy, and take prescription medications for the rest of their lives.
If a plaintiff can establish that another person’s reckless or negligent actions caused or contributed to an accident, he or she may be able to collect medical expenses as well as compensation for the following costs:
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future income;
- Property damage; and
- Funeral or burial expenses.
While some losses may be relatively simple to quantify, such as medical bills, others can be more difficult to calculate. This could include the pain and suffering endured by a victim or the distress experienced by a person who lost a spouse. Fortunately, these types of non-economic losses are also compensable in Ohio. This means that injured parties and their families can also be awarded damages for the following intangible losses:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium;
- Mental anguish; and
Collecting these types of damages can be vital to an injured party’s recovery as many victims suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder or depression after being involved in particularly horrific crashes, such as wrong way collisions.
While nothing can compensate a person for the loss of a loved one or a permanent disability, collecting compensation from the at-fault parties can go a long way towards helping a family begin the long process of recovery. Although it may be difficult for injured parties to remain focused on the legal aspects of a car crash when they are dealing with pain, grief, or mounting medical bills, it is essential to adhere to the state’s procedural requirements for filing a claim as a failure to do so could lead to the case being barred. For example, in Ohio, plaintiffs only have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim against the responsible party. Retaining an experienced attorney can help car crash victims focus on their recovery while not foregoing their legal rights due to a lack of time or knowledge.
In 2006, the Ohio Department of Transportation installed flashing lights on Wrong Way and No Entry signs across the state. They also made efforts to place signs at a lower vantage point because intoxicated drivers often keep their eyes lowered. After implementing these measures the number of wrong way crashes decreased slightly, although many argue that still more could be done. As a result, the Department of Transportation has pledged to improve signs on freeways and one way roads even further by using sensors to track whether a car is driving in the wrong direction. When activated, these sensors would alert local law enforcement. While these measures could help prevent a number of accidents, it is unclear when they will be implemented as concerns remain about the effectiveness and accuracy of the technology involved. Finally, the Ohio Highway Patrol warns drivers to maintain proper speed and distance when driving on freeways in order to improve their reaction time and so help them avoid being involved in a wrong way crash.
Contact an Experienced Columbus Car Crash Attorney Today
While many types of car crashes are dangerous and potentially deadly, wrong way crashes are especially tragic because they are more likely to result in death, so if you were injured or lost a loved one in a car crash, please contact Ohio Car Accident Lawyers by completing one of our standard contact forms and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free consultation with a dedicated and determined Columbus, OH auto accident lawyer who can explain your legal options.