Wrong Way Drivers in Phoenix
The Phoenix area has witnessed a staggering number of wrong-way accidents in recent years. A “wrong way” accident occurs when a driver travels down the wrong side of the road. This is incredibly dangerous for obvious reasons, and wrong way accidents have caused many injuries, significant property damage, and some fatalities. Wrong way accidents claim 300 to 400 lives on average each year in the United States.
How Do These Accidents Happen?
Although road signs that say “One Way” or “Wrong Way” may be very visible, most of the wrong way car accidents that occur in Arizona happen because of alcohol, inattention, or unfamiliarity with the area. Some things like road construction and modified traffic lanes can make it difficult to navigate, but every driver has a legal duty of care to the other drivers on the road to follow posted traffic signals and pay close attention to the road ahead.
Driving under the influence is a major contributor to the number of wrong way accidents in Arizona. A driver under the influence of alcohol or other illicit drugs will experience impaired judgment, slowed reaction time, blurred vision, disorientation, or may fall asleep or pass out behind the wheel, allowing the car to drift into other lanes of traffic. A drunk driver may not realize he or she drifted into another lane until it is too late to avoid a collision.
Wrong way accidents can also happen with drivers who are new to the area and unsure of where to go. It’s wise to plan any trips to unfamiliar territory ahead of time to have a firm idea of where you are going. A driver who is unfamiliar with the area may attempt to enter a highway from an exit ramp or turn the wrong way down a one-way street, causing an accident.
Confusion is another major contributing factor to wrong way accidents. Some drivers, particularly older drivers, may become confused behind the wheel and inadvertently travel the wrong way down a road. One of the biggest contributors to the number of wrong way accidents is a distraction while driving. Texting while driving, rubbernecking to look at an accident or something along the side of the road, or other distractions inside a vehicle like fighting children or loud music can sometimes cause wrong way accidents as well. Distracted driving claims about 3,000 lives every year in the U.S.
Legal Issues for Wrong Way Drivers
Regardless of how a wrong way accident happens, the at-fault driver should expect legal action from the victims and their families. Driving the wrong way on any road and causing an accident is clear negligence, and the plaintiff will likely have very little trouble winning a lawsuit for a wrong way accident. Drivers have a duty of care to follow the traffic laws and obey posted traffic signals and traveling the right way on the road is absolutely part of this obligation. Being new to the area, confusion about your directions, or any other excuse will not help an at-fault driver escape legal action from any victims in a wrong way accident.
The Arizona Department of Transportation has started identifying problematic streets and intersections to attempt to curb the number of wrong way accidents in the state, placing larger and more noticeable “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs where appropriate. The ADOT has also released a free mobile app that drivers can use to check traffic issues and report wrong way drivers.
Any driver who notices a wrong way driver should slow down, move away from the wrong way driver, and safely stop somewhere to contact the police. Provide them with the license plate number, make and model, and last known location of the vehicle. Overhead highway signs may indicate the presence of a wrong way driver nearby, so take the nearest exit if you notice such a sign to get out of the dangerous area. With vigilance and help from ADOT, Arizona will hopefully see a decrease in wrong way accidents in the future.
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