Since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started over a year ago, there have been significantly fewer motorists on the road, particularly during the first nine months of 2020. Yet, despite the much lighter traffic, there has been a disturbing increase in fatal car accidents. Unfortunately, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, car accident fatalities caused by wrong-way accidents in particular are on the rise. A study released by AAA found that these tragic accidents increased from an average of 360 per year from 2004 to 2009 to an average of 500 from 2015 to 2019. Although these devastating and often fatal accidents cause massive property damage and severe injuries, motorists can avoid wrong-way accidents by obeying the rules of the road and making safety a priority at all times. If a driver is seriously injured by another motorist who is driving in the wrong direction, a catastrophic injury lawyer can assist them with the claims process and secure the financial compensation they deserve.
What Were the Highlights of the AAA Study?
AAA conducted the study to gain a better understanding of why these accidents are occurring and how they can be avoided. According to the director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central, wrong-way accidents that occur on divided highways often result in fatalities because they tend to be head-on collisions. The director said that AAA hopes to raise awareness of the increase in wrong-way accidents and the steps motorists can take to prevent them. The study revealed the following results:
- Over 60% of motorists involved in fatal wrong-way accidents were legally drunk at the time of the accident.
- Drunk driving was, by far, the most common cause of wrong-way accidents.
- Motorists over the age of 70 were more likely to drive the wrong way.
- Motorists were less likely to drive the wrong way if there was another passenger in the car.
AAA intends to work with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to encourage states to develop more effective programs to address the impaired driving issue, including alcohol ignition interlocks that prevent vehicles from operating if the driver has had too much to drink. Increasing the number of police sobriety checkpoints has also been recommended. According to the director of the Office of Highway Safety at the NTSB, based on the results of the AAA study, it is clear that society needs to be much more proactive in its efforts to enforce the interventions that have been effective at preventing these devastating accidents.
What are Other Common Causes of Wrong-Way Accidents?
Wrong-way accidents caused by drunk driving are certainly preventable if motorists avoid getting behind the wheel after consuming too much alcohol. However, there are other unsafe and preventable driving behaviors that, if stopped, can help motorists avoid wrong-way accidents, including the following:
- Texting and driving
- Other types of distracted driving, including reaching for something in the back seat, changing the radio station, and eating while driving
- Drowsy driving
The following are other common causes of wrong-way accidents that motorists may not be able to control:
- Detours, which can cause motorists to become confused and end up on the wrong side of the road
- Poor road design, including badly marked ramps, missing Do Not Enter signs, inadequate lighting, and signs that are obstructed by overgrown foliage
- Defective auto parts, including faulty brakes or steering systems and defective tires that can cause motorists to lose control of their vehicle and end up driving the wrong way
What Injuries Do Wrong-Way Accidents Cause?
Wrong-way car accidents tend to be quite serious, particularly when they occur on a highway and result in a head-on collision. In fact, according to the NTSB, wrong-way car accidents are more likely to be fatal than any other type of car accident. Depending on the nature of the accident and the speed at which the vehicles were traveling, the resulting injuries can be serious, if the motorists are fortunate enough to survive. Common injuries from wrong-way car accidents include the following:
- Broken bones, particularly the pelvis, ribs, collarbone, arms, and legs
- Internal injuries to organs in the chest and abdomen
- Head and neck injuries, including whiplash, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries, including partial or complete paralysis
- Wrongful death
How Do I Prove Liability in a Wrong-Way Car Accident?
In a personal injury lawsuit, the injured party must be able to prove that the other motorist caused the accident. In some cases, it is clear who caused the accident, but not always. To prove liability, the injured person must be able to prove the following key factors:
- A legal duty was owed: All drivers owe other motorists, pedestrians, passengers, and bicyclists a legal duty to operate their vehicle with a reasonable standard of care.
- The duty was breached: The injured motorist must be able to prove that the other driver failed to fulfill the duty of care, meaning that they did not behave the way another reasonably prudent driver would have behaved in a similar situation. If another motorist would have been more careful and avoided a wrong-way accident, the driver may be considered at fault. If the driver received a traffic violation for their role in the accident, a copy of the citation will help establish that a duty was breached.
- The breach resulted in injuries: The injured driver must be able to prove that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident. In other words, the accident would not have occurred if the driver had been more careful.
California is a pure comparative fault state, which means that the injured driver can collect compensation even if they were partly at fault for causing the accident. The total amount of compensation that the injured driver may recover will be based on their role in the accident. For example, if the motorist was 30% responsible for causing the accident and the total damages add up to $10,000, the injured party may be eligible to collect $7,000.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Filing an Injury Claim in California?
If a wrong-way car accident victim wished to file a personal injury lawsuit after being involved in a car accident, he or she must do so within two years from the date of the injury. If the injured party fails to meet this deadline, it is highly unlikely that the court will hear the case. As a result, the victim will be unable to collect any compensation. There are certain situations in which the statute of limitations may be extended. For example, if the injured party is a minor or is incapacitated for any reason, the statute of limitations may be extended.
How can I Prevent a Wrong-Way Car Accident?
There are a number of proactive steps that motorists can take to avoid being involved in a devastating wrong-way accident. Some may seem like common sense, including making sure that the motorist is scanning the road ahead and in the general vicinity of their car. By looking beyond the first few cars ahead of them, the motorist will be better able to see a hazard coming and take immediate action to prevent a wrong-way collision. Motorists are also urged to travel in the right lane, as it is the safest place to be if a motorist traveling in the opposite direction drifts into oncoming traffic. In addition to these safe driving strategies, avoiding dangerous driving behavior such as drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding, and reckless driving can significantly reduce the risk of being involved in a catastrophic wrong-way car accident.
Transportation officials from each state can also take the following steps to reduce wrong-way accidents:
- Install flashing Wrong-Way signs in high-risk areas.
- Paint Wrong-Way arrows on the pavement.
- Install concrete structures that prevent motorists from entering roads or ramps going in the wrong direction.
- Place additional wrong-way signs on streets and ramps.
- Place surveillance systems and sensor detectors in areas where wrong-way vehicles can be identified. This will allow the detection system to warn drivers who are traveling in the wrong direction. These systems can also notify police if the wrong-way driver fails to turn around or move into the correct lane. Electronic highway signs will also alert motorists if they are in danger of approaching a wrong-way driver.
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Seek Justice for Victims of Wrong-Way Car Accidents
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a devastating wrong-way car accident, you are urged to contact the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at ACTS Law. Owing to the severity of a wrong-way accident, the property damage is often extensive and the injuries can be quite serious. Oftentimes, these accidents involve fatalities. Our dedicated legal team will conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for causing the accident and hold that person liable for your injuries. We will explain every step of the claims process and secure the financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online. With offices located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout Southern California.