Has the recent rise in wrong-way crashes in the Tampa Bay area become a problem that will not soon go away? Last spring, a Hillsborough Sheriff’s deputy suffered fatal injuries in a wrong-way collision on the Selmon Expressway, according to a report from WMNF 88.5, the Tampa area’s listener-supported community radio station. In response to previous wrong-way crashes that have occurred in the area, “Wrong-Way Driver Alert” signs began appearing overhead on I-275, warning drivers in the St. Petersburg area of the serious risks of these dangerous car accidents.
Concerned about the rising number of auto accidents of this type, Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Kris Carson emphasized that we need to take steps to prevent wrong-way crashes, and we need to look within and beyond the Tampa Bay area.
Rising Number of Wrong-Way Car Accidents in Tampa Highlights Need for Prevention throughout Florida
According to Kris Carson, “we have had a lot of wrong-way crashes and fatalities, especially in the Tampa Bay area.” Yet as it began conducting research into the problem, the Florida Department of Transportation learned that wrong-way crashes actually have spiked in many areas of the country. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a special investigative report about wrong-way driving in the nation, emphasizing that it is “one of the most serious types of highway accidents” defined by “collisions involving vehicles traveling the wrong way on high-speed divided highways.”
hat is causing the rise in wrong-way crashes and serious personal injuries? The NTSB report cites the following facts and figures, which help to clarify some of the underlying causes of wrong-way driving:
● Between 50 percent and 75 percent of wrong-way drivers are driving under the influence of alcohol;
● 60 percent of fatal wrong-way crashes involve alcohol impairment at a “high BAC” of at least 0.15 and sometimes higher (well over the legal limit of 0.08 percent);
● Drivers aged 70 and older tend to have a higher rate of wrong-way driving than do younger drivers, suggesting that impairments due to age also play a role in wrong-way crashes;
● Most wrong-way movements occur at the entryway to a highway exit ramp;
● Other common wrong-way driving movements happen when a driver either makes a U-turn or attempts to use a highway emergency turnaround after missing an exit ramp;
● More wrong-way accidents happen at night;
● Nearly 80 percent of all fatal wrong-way crashes happened between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.;
● More wrong-way accidents happen on weekends; and
● A majority of wrong-way collisions happen when the driver is in the lane closest to the median.
Preventing Wrong-Way Collisions in the Tampa Bay Area
One of the primary reasons that wrong-way crashes occur is alcohol impairment. Carson underscores this point made by the NTSB report, and emphasizes that we need to do more to prevent drinking and driving. As Carson explains, “unfortunately, the Tampa Bay area has a big problem with impairment, whether it’s drugs or alcohol.” In many of the wrong-way collisions in the area, “the driver has been drinking and driving or has had drugs in their system,” Carson details.
While flashing signs may help to prevent wrong-way crashes that do not result from impaired driving, the NTSB report suggests that states like Florida need to take a harsher stance when it comes to DUIs. Installing ignition interlocks in vehicles, for instance, and preventing drivers who are likely to commit another DUI from being on the road, may be the best preventive measures.
Contact a Tampa Bay Car Accident Attorney
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