Recently, a police vehicle and a fire engine were involved in a head-on collision in Washington D.C. The Washington Post reports there were two injured in the crash. An investigation is underway into how the accident happened.
Like most head-on collisions, this serious type of car accident may turn out to be a wrong-way accident in which one of the drivers was traveling in the opposite direction from the way he was supposed to be traveling in a particular area or lane. Wrong-way accidents frequently result in head-on crashes since a driver who is opposing traffic is likely to strike other vehicles head-on. Wrong-way accidents are significantly more likely to cause fatalities than other crash types, so understanding causes of wrong-way accidents is essential to improving the safety of the roads.
Causes of Wrong-Way Accidents in Washington D.C.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports head-on accidents are more likely to occur in rural areas than in urban areas such as D.C. In rural areas, head-on accidents account for 13 percent of collisions compared with just seven percent of accidents in urban areas. In rural locations, head-on crashes routinely occur on two lane roads when one driver tries to pass another by going into the opposing lane. In urban locations like D.C., however, head-on crashes often occur on highways when motorists confuse entrance and exit ramps or, sometimes, on one-way city streets which drivers enter going in the wrong direction.
There are many causes of wrong-way accidents which lead to head-on collisions. In some cases, simple confusion is the culprit. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration indicates many wrong-way crashes happen when on-ramps and off-ramps are arranged in a cloverleaf pattern. Exit and entrance ramps are adjacent and parallel with this type of road design, which forces left-turning motorists to drive past the wrong lane before they get into the lane they need to be in. Drivers may simply choose the wrong lane, especially if road signs warning them not to enter are too high up or are otherwise not clearly visible.
Seniors may be especially vulnerable to causing head-on accidents by traveling in the wrong direction. While the majority of wrong-way crashes involve drivers age 20 to 50 who are traveling in the wrong direction, there are significant increases in wrong-way driving behavior after age 70 and after age 80. Drivers age 80 and older are 30 times as likely to go the wrong way and cause a crash as compared with drivers age 70 to 79. Even drivers within their 70's are 2.5 times as likely to go the wrong way and cause crashes as motorists in their 60's. Alcohol is rarely a factor in these accidents.
Among young drivers, however, alcohol is almost always a factor in wrong-way crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board indicates 65 percent of drivers age 20 to 39 who were in wrong-way crashes had alcohol in their system when the incidents occurred. Drivers need to ensure they are staying sober so they do not travel in the wrong direction and hit other vehicles head-on.