The Kansas City Star reported that there have been several recent wrong-way accidents on highways in Kansas and Missouri. One occurred in March, 2012 on I-635 and led to the death of 45-year old Chris Keck, a husband and father of four children; the wrong-way driver survived the crash. Most wrong-way accidents occur late at night or early in the morning, and involve drivers impaired by drugs, alcohol, or mental confusion. The National Transportation Safety Board reports that about 360 people are killed each year in wrong-way crashes on highways. It also suggests that many of these are caused by alcohol use, and suggest states impose laws that require drunk-driving offenders to have ignition interlock systems in their vehicles. These will prevent drivers from being able to operate their vehicle unless they blow into the machine and it recognizes that their blood alcohol level is under the legal limit.
Many cities and states have attempted to address the issue by installing more “do not enter” signs on exit ramps and re-engineering the ramp structures to make the distinction between on and off ramps more obvious. However, officials believe that people will still make the mistake of entering an exit ramp in the wrong direction regardless of extra signs or alerts to get their attention. The report quoted Steve Lombardi, who agrees with this notion that accidents will still occur even with the increase in precautions taken to prevent them. Mr. Lombardi suggests the best way to avoid getting injured by a wrong-way driver is to stay in the right lane and be observant of other drivers.
From the Kansas City Star: "Steve Lombardi, an Iowa lawyer who has studied wrong-way crashes for years and who represents their victims, is not sure there is an effective engineering way to catch a wrong-way driver before he or she goes up an exit ramp. He notes that drivers going the right way will often honk and flash their lights at wrong-way drivers but that they often just wave back.
“They’re completely oblivious to what they’re doing,” he said of those drivers. “I’m not sure there’s any way to get their attention.”
Until they run into another car.
In the meantime, the lawyer has some advice that he says he always follows on the highway: avoid the left lane, especially if approaching a hill. The NTSB confirms that most wrong-way drivers are in the lane closest to the median, which to them is the right one.
“You won’t see the wrong-way driver,” Lombardi said, “and that’s when you’re going to get nailed.”
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