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What's the deal with wrong-way drivers? How does it happen?

It may be inconceivable to you how a person could end up driving down the wrong side of the road, especially when there is a median between you and oncoming traffic. Even so, hundreds of people die each year due to accidents in which one of the vehicles involved headed in the wrong direction on the roadway.

While there are no absolutes regarding when, how or where these accidents may occur, some significant commonalities exist that shed some light on these collisions.

The age factor

Statistics show that the majority of wrong-way drivers fall somewhere between the ages of 20 and 50. However, once an individual reaches the age of 70, the odds of these older drivers traveling headlong into oncoming traffic increase dramatically. Research indicates this is due to one or more of the following factors:

  • Bad eyesight
  • Physical challenges
  • Cognitive challenges

With the average age of the population increasing every year, researchers believe that by the year 2020, no less than 40 million drivers will be age 65 or above. This means that you chances of encountering a wrong-way driver due to age increase as well.

The alcohol factor

Even though age may factor into the number of wrong-way drivers on the road, alcohol remains the primary reason by far that people end up driving into oncoming traffic. The analysis of data collected by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that 1,111 of the 1,566 drivers who traveled the wrong way down a roadway during a six-year span had alcohol in their systems at the time of the crash.

A breakdown of those drivers by blood alcohol concentration is as follows:

  • BAC of .15 or above -- 59 percent
  • BAC between .08 and .14 -- 10 percent
  • BAC below .08 -- two percent

The remainder of drivers had no alcohol in their systems. This means that 71 percent of all drivers involved in wrong-way crashes had something to drink before getting behind the wheel. If you had any doubt that drunk drivers remain a problem on the road, these numbers will probably dispel it.

The time factor

Additional data was analyzed to identify when you would most likely encounter a wrong-way driver. That analysis found that wrong-way collisions happened during the following times:

  • Midnight and 3 a.m. -- 31 percent
  • 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. -- 22 percent
  • 9 p.m. and midnight -- 18 percent
  • 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. -- 17 percent
  • 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. -- 12 percent

As you can see, there is always a chance of running into a wrong-way driver, but the highest concentration of them is on the roads from midnight to 3 a.m.

The support factor

If you ended up literally running into a wrong-way driver, you may consider yourself lucky to be alive. Even so, you more than likely suffered serious injuries that may prevent you from ever going back to the life you had prior to the crash.

You do have legal options, however. You may pursue compensation from the at fault driver through the filing of a personal injury claim in a Pennsylvania civil court.

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