This past summer, a wrong-way driver caused a deadly motor vehicle accident in El Paso on Loop 375 near Railroad. El Paso Proud reports a 35-year-old motorist was traveling in the western direction in an eastbound lane when her vehicle hit another car head-on. The wrong-way driver died instantly at the scene of the collision. The other driver was rushed to the hospital with injuries described as 'non-life threatening. Authorities were still investigating the crash cause, but it was likely alcohol played a role in causing the driver to go the wrong direction.
This wrong-way driver was one of many who causes head-on crashes. The Texas Department of Transportation reports 581 fatalities in head-on crashes in the state in 2014. Understanding the causes of head-on crashes is one of the keys to reducing traffic fatalities, as these types of motor vehicle collisions tend to be some of the most deadly on the roads.
Causes of Head-On Crashes
Safety Transportation reports most head-on crashes are caused by:
- Drivers making unintentional maneuvers, including veering into the wrong lane.
- Drivers going the wrong way on a highway, one-way road, or any other roadway.
Unintentional maneuvers, like a driver veering into the opposing lane of traffic, are commonly caused by driver distraction, by a driver falling asleep behind the wheel, or by a driver going too quickly around a curve.
Drivers veering going the wrong way on a road usually occurs because of:
- Old age.
- Road design, with more crashes happening when highway exit lanes and highway entrance lanes run adjacent and parallel to each other.
National Transportation Safety Board takes a closer look at top causes of drivers going the wrong way. Alcohol was described as a factor in approximately 60 percent of accidents in which drivers travel in the wrong direction. Among motorists ages 20 to 39, alcohol was a factor in a larger percentage (65 percent) of collisions.
Different reasons for wrong-way crashes were more common among people in different age groups. Seniors, for example, were far less likely to have consumed alcohol when involved in a crash in which they went the wrong way.
Cognitive decline occurs as seniors age, and natural declines in vision and mental acuity, were common reasons seniors got confused and went into the wrong lane. Prescription medications could also play a role, as 76 percent of Americans over 60 are on at least two medications over a month.
NTSB data focuses on younger motorists and seniors because these are the groups with the greatest chances of going the wrong way and causing a head-on crash. The majority of wrong-way accidents occur when drivers ages 20 to 50 drive in the incorrect direction. However, after age 70, the risk begins to climb significantly, A driver 70 to 79 years of age is 2.5 times as likely as a driver to go the wrong compared with a motorist just 10 years younger. A driver age 80 and older is 30 times as likely to go the wrong way and cause a head-on crash.