Wrong-way accidents almost always result in catastrophic or fatal injuries, and it’s not difficult to see why. When two vehicles traveling from opposite directions at moderate to high speeds get close to each other, both drivers have very little reaction time to hit the brakes or to take other evasive actions before impact. As a result, the two vehicles collide head-on with significant force that can seriously harm the occupants.
A wrong-way head-on collision occurred at U.S. Highway 15/501 exit just before 9 p.m., killing John Michael Williams, 59, of Durham and seriously injuring Jimmy Allen, 25, and his brother Walter, 30, also from Durham. According to reports, Williams was going southbound in a northbound lane when his vehicle collided head-on with a northbound Jeep occupied by the Allen brothers. A back seat passenger in the Jeep, Michael Carter, 28, of Durham, suffered minor injuries. The wreckage caused authorities to close all lanes of the Durham Freeway northbound. Authorities are still investigating how Williams entered the highway going in the wrong direction.
A wrong-way crash occurs when a vehicle enters the travel lane of oncoming traffic and collides with another. Since the two vehicles are heading toward one another, the opposing forces make the impact extremely deadly. This type of accident often causes massive damage. Safety features such as airbags, pre-tensioners, and seatbelts help reduce bodily injuries, but it is seldom that car occupants come out unscathed.
One of the most common causes of wrong-way accidents is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but there are various other reasons why drivers travel toward oncoming traffic, such as improperly placed or missing signage, heavy vegetation, obscured signage due to poor lighting, road contraction that alters the normal flow of traffic, poor road design, cloverleaf interchanges that confuse the driver, among other causes. Typically, police officers will not chase a wrong-way driver as the chase can add to the risk.
Drivers often simply turn around after realizing they are going in the wrong direction, but some continue until they collide with another vehicle. Whether deliberate or unintentional, a driver who travels the wrong way and causes an accident can be held liable for property damage, past and future medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other losses incurred by the victim(s).
A driver who unintentionally goes the wrong way due to lack of proper markings or signs can still be responsible for any resulting injuries, but the government entity responsible for the road may also be held legally liable. A personal injury attorney can help injured victims determine which parties are potentially liable for a wrong-way crash to obtain fair compensation for their losses.