It seems like there is news of a wrong way crash practically every day in our state, This isn’t your imagination or media hype. Wrong way collisions really do occur almost daily in Texas.
Tragically, 251 people were injured and 102 were killed in wrong way crashes in 2015.
Texas remains consistently in first place for most wrong-way accidents in the nation. Yet another first place trophy we need to retire.
But there is some light at the end of this tunnel. As I reported earlier this year, the Texas Department of Transportation has implemented a special program focused on ending wrong way accidents. The first part of the money is earmarked here for Tarrant County to analyze the best means for stopping drivers from entering highway ramps going in the wrong direction.
The pilot program focuses mainly on I-30 and Highway 360 interchange in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Already, TxDOT has installed high tech tools to prevent drivers from entering the highway in the wrong direction, to alert drivers that do go the wrong way, and to get police on the scene as quickly as possible to stop the driver before he injures somebody.
You might have noticed some of the new tools. For example, WRONG WAY signs have been lowered to driver level and bright red reflective tape added to the polls to catch the eye of a driver going the wrong way.
You would not be aware of other improvements unless you were to drive the wrong way. Sensors detect when a driver is going the wrong way and trigger red flashing LED lights that illuminate the WRONG WAY signs. If this isn’t enough to prompt the driver to turn around, the sensors also automatically alert police who can respond quickly to stop the wrong way driver.
Most wrong-way crashes occur at night, so visibility is a central component of prevention measures. This increased visibility also better attracts the attention of drunk drivers, who are responsible for most wrong way accidents. TxDOT has identified profound drunkenness as the number one reason for wrong way crashes. Ideally, stopping impaired drivers is a major means of preventing head-on collisions.
I applaud the high-tech solutions designed for greater visibility, but more needs to be done. The pilot program does not address another major factor in head-on collisions — inadequate median barriers. Many crashes on Texas’s rural roads and major highways could be avoided by implementing appropriate barriers that stop vehicles from entering into opposite travelling traffic.
A properly designed median could have prevented the horrific wrong-way crash that injured cheerleaders and killed the squad’s sponsor as they drove home from a game last December. An appropriate median design might have also prevented the texting truck driver who drifted into oncoming traffic and killed four North Central Texas College softball players three years ago.
Properly designed median barriers deflect the vehicle away from oncoming traffic while absorbing the crash impact. The design minimizes some of the injuries to the driver and protects potential victims travelling in the adjoining lane. The technology is available. It’s time for TxDOT to use all the tools at its disposal. Our lives depend on it.
I’ve been a personal injury lawyer for over 36 years and have witnessed the devastation these high speed crashes cause. Please call me (817) 885-8000 or toll-free at 1-888-801-8585 if you or a loved one has been injured in a wrong way or another type of car wreck.