Driving down 635 (LBJ Freeway) in North Dallas, the last thing you’d expect to see is a car heading straight toward you at 70 MPH, right? But that’s exactly what two shocked drivers experienced the other night.
A man drove onto LBJ going the wrong way at 10 p.m. on Sunday. Other drivers frantically called 911 when they saw him but before police could stop him, he had crashed into two cars. Miraculously nobody was killed.
What’s the cause? You guessed it.
The wrong-way driver was high. Most are or are drunk. In fact, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) study found that an incredible 61 percent of wrong-way drivers were intoxicated. Most of intoxicated wrong-way drivers are extremely drunk, with BACs above .15 percent. The third most common factor in wrong-way crashes is drugs.
Here’s another shameful statistic compiled by the NTSB: Texas leads the nation in wrong-way accidents.
What is our state doing to fix the problem?
Getting drunk and drugged drivers off the road would drastically reduce all traffic accidents, which is why I constantly advocate for stricter drunk driving laws in Texas.
Good news: the state is taking measures to stop drivers from entering the highway in the wrong direction.
TxDOT installs highly visible signs on DFW highways
Earlier this year, the TxDOT announced a pilot program to implement high-tech solutions to wrong-way driving.
You may have already noticed wrong-way signs along I-30 and Highway 360. These aren’t new but have been lowered to drivers’ eye level. Red reflective tape makes them more visible.
If you were to approach the sign going in the wrong direction, it would trigger flashing LED lights to get your attention. These signs are so obvious even a drunk person can’t miss them, which is exactly what we need.
The signs are also designed to alert police that a wrong-way driver has entered the highway. In Sunday’s accident, concerned drivers tried to get police out there in time. The sensors would make this process automatic, potentially speeding up police response time.
More of these changes are coming. Dallas-Fort Worth 183-A and 290 toll roads are on the list of roads slated for the new improved signage. As Texas recognizes the success of this pilot program, additional DFW roads are sure to follow.
Recovering for a wrong-way collision
Wrong-way crashes account for just three percent of highway wrecks. With so few, why is this important?
Although that number may be low, wrong-way accidents are often high speed and catastrophic. One study found that the fatality rate was 27 times higher in wrong-way collisions than in any other type of traffic accident. Those who survive generally sustain life-altering injuries. With these statistics in mind, preventing these accidents should be a priority.
What’s also interesting about wrong-way highway collisions is that human error is almost always to blame, usually to the level of gross negligence. This fact is important when pursuing damages. A person who was so drunk that he didn’t realize he was entering the highway going in the wrong direction may be liable to you for punitive damages, which can greatly assist anybody suffering catastrophic injuries or the death of a loved one.
I have been helping automobile crash victims for 37 years including those injured in wrong-way crashes.