There is a right and wrong way to do things. When it comes to driving, the wrong way can have terrible consequences, especially driving the wrong way down a divided highway.
Wrong-way collisions on divided highways accounted for 0.15 percent of all collisions in the state in 2013. This may appear to be a low percentage; however, wrong-way collisions have terrible results.
Because of the combined speeds at which these collisions occur, they are much more likely to result in serious or fatal injuries. Wrong-way collisions on divided highways are 12 times more likely to result in someone losing his or her life.
The often violent aftermath from collisions with wrong-way drivers underscores the importance for motorists of focusing on driving defensively and distraction-free each and every time they get behind the wheel.
The number of collisions caused by wrong-way drivers in California has fluctuated over the past few years: 214 in 2012, 172 in 2013, 186 in 2014 and 206 in 2015.
Because the statistics showed a dramatic increase in fatal wrong-way collisions during the first five months of 2015, the California Highway Patrol and the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began a wrong-way driving prevention working group in May 2015.
It has developed a prevention pilot program for Sacramento and San Diego. The prevention measures include enhanced roadway markings on a majority of freeway offramps. Additionally, select freeway offramps in the two regions will have radar and photographic detection capabilities to provide immediate online notification to the Caltrans Transportation Management Centers and CHP communications centers.
What can you do as a motorist to help with these wrong-way incidents? First, you can avoid being a wrong-way driver by not drinking and driving. The majority of wrong-way collisions involve a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Make the responsible choice and designate a non-drinking driver, or call a taxi, a ride-sharing service or a sober friend. There are a multitude of alternate transportation options to avoid getting behind the wheel after you have been drinking. Easy answer: Don’t do it.
If you happen to observe a wrong-way driver, immediately call 911 and if possible, provide the vehicle’s description, location, and direction of travel. Be aware that the “fast lane” for the correct direction of travel is perceived as the “slow lane” or the “right lane” for a wrong-way driver.
One way to avoid a wrong-way driver is to constantly look down the road while scanning the lanes so you can anticipate hazards or oncoming vehicles ahead of you. If you see a hazard or wrong-way driver, use extreme caution and take the necessary evasive action.
Be careful when cresting a rise or rounding a curve as your sight distance is limited in those situations. Unfortunately, wrong-way drivers do not always use their headlights. Stay alert.
Unfortunately I can relate to these statistics as I was the victim of a head-on, wrong-way driver. In my case I was hit head-on by a drunken driver. Fortunately, my story has a happy conclusion. I am alive and I can speak of the horrible experience I endured because of one person’s irresponsible choice to drink and drive.
The driver believed he was traveling southbound in the slow lane of traffic when in fact he was traveling northbound in the fast lane. I still deal with the pain from my injuries from that collision.
If I can give you one piece of advice when driving, it is to always stay alert and focused on driving only. Do not just look at the vehicle ahead of you. Keep a high visual horizon and look as far down the road as you can, continuing to scan for hazards, such as items in the roadway, vehicles, pedestrians and, of course, wrong-way drivers. The CHP wants everyone to be safe and to enjoy the privilege of driving.
Driving is serious business, as exemplified in this quote by an unknown author: “In a split second you could ruin your future, injure or kill others, and tear a hole in the heart of everyone who loves you.”
Officer Traci Gallian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from the CHP Central Division, go to the division’s Facebook page.