The Dangers of Head-On Collisions and Wrong-Way Drivers

One of the scariest things you can see while driving is another car barreling straight at you. Fear and confusion immediately take over. Your brain is flooded with potential reactions that cloud your judgment.

As the distance closes between your vehicles, your options for avoiding the crash and serious injuries decrease by the second.

What should you do? Try to swerve? Brace for impact? What are your odds of surviving a full blown head-on collision? The answers may surprise you.

Head-On Collision Risks

Most head-on crashes are caused by one driver traveling the wrong way, either by crossing the center line of a road or by turning the wrong way onto a highway exit. Although they represent only two percent of all collisions, head-on and wrong-way driver collisions result in more than 10 percent of car accident fatalities. What makes these types of accidents so dangerous is the combined forces of each car ramming together. In other words, the full momentum of each vehicle is added together to maximize the force of impact, thus increasing the crush zone. Furthermore, the impact site is focused toward the front of the vehicle, where the engine block can become a deadly battering ram to those sitting behind it.

Common Collision Causes

An inordinate amount of head-on accidents occur at night when visibility is low and driver fatigue is high. As a result of the conditions, drivers are more apt to veer into oncoming lanes without noticing until it’s too late. Unfortunately, avoiding driving at night is not only impractical to avoid these collisions, but also futile. In addition to fatigue, there are many other causes of head-on collisions, all of which can lead to serious, if not life-threatening, injuries.

  • Driver distractions. It is extremely easy to lose control of your vehicle when you’re not paying attention. Even a quick look at your phone or a glance into your back seat can be enough of a movement to cause you to veer into another lane.
  • Older drivers. When we get old, our reflexes tend to become slower. As a result, if an older driver veers into oncoming traffic, he may not be able to recover until it’s too late. Confusion in older drivers can also play a role. When an older driver becomes confused by the layout of the road or by traffic signs, he may become distracted and drive on the wrong side of the road or enter the off-ramp.
  • Pileups. When an accident causes a multi-car pile up, the cars stuck in the middle can be squeezed and pushed toward parallel lanes and into oncoming traffic.
  • Driver intoxication. The number one cause of head-on collisions is intoxication. Drugs and alcohol significantly impair a driver’s vision, reflexes, and judgment, as well as his ability to adequately judge distance and direction, leading to a high number of wrong-way accidents.
  • Poor road conditions. Large potholes, insufficient medians, broken guardrails, poor lighting, road debris, and construction can all aid in causing a driver to accidentally veer into oncoming traffic.

Attacking the Problem Head-On: Safety Tips You Can Use Today

Despite the risks involved with head-on collisions, there are steps that you and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) can take to help decrease injuries and promote safety.

TxDOT and other highway maintenance authorities need to start taking head-on collision avoidance more seriously. Listed below are a few safety initiatives that can help drivers understand their risks as well as prevent wrong-way lane veering.

  • Increase lighting. Highways and rural roads need to be well lit in order for drivers to see oncoming traffic and also where lanes split.
  • Place more medians and centerline rumble strips. Medians and centerline rumble strips can go a long way to prevent wrong-way drivers from crossing lanes. Medians actually create a barrier which is difficult to cross, while rumble strips can alert drivers when their steering is taking them too far into the next lane.
  • Increase education and awareness of risks. Drivers need to realize their risks before it’s too late. Public awareness campaigns and student driver lessons can help drivers understand the potential dangers from wrong-way traffic.

If you find yourself staring at oncoming traffic, you need to assess the situation as quickly as possible. Do you have time to safely pull off onto the shoulder? Will honking help the other driver realize he is in the wrong lane? Do you have passengers?

If you’re unable to avoid the collision, and you’re the only person in your car, the best course of action is to try to maneuver the vehicle to the side, so the impact is directed toward the passenger side. This will increase your chance of survival as the force of the collision will disperse throughout the cab as it crumples the empty seat.

The Aftermath of Your Injuries

Unfortunately, most head-on collisions result in catastrophic injuries, including broken bones, head and spinal trauma, internal injuries, and crush damage. This represents needless and preventable suffering. Claims for compensation often end up requiring extensive investigations, evidence, and hard work to even get off the ground.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone—attorney Steve Lee is here to help. Contact our office today to speak with an experienced and hard-nosed attorney who will help you understand your rights, explore your options, and pursue a strong and well-rounded claim. We’re waiting to fight for you. What are you waiting for?

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