Wrong-way crashes are a common mystery on southern California’s freeways. All freeways in California are well-marked. The correct direction of travel is part of prominent signage, as is the direction of exit and entrance ramps. How then do drivers end up going the wrong-way?
Wrong-way accident kills one
A recent wrong-way accident in Orange appears to have raised most of the common questions about how such accidents occur. A 76-year old man driving a Toyota Camry was heading north in the southbound lanes of the 241 toll road when his vehicle struck a Ford F-150 truck. The pickup truck failed in a last minute attempt to avoid being hit by the Camry. The Ford then hit a Chevrolet Camaro. The driver of the Camry was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the pick-up truck suffered major injuries and was immediately hospitalized. Two teen-aged male passengers in the pick-up truck were also injured and hospitalized. Investigators have not yet ruled out either alcohol or drugs as being causative factors in the crash.
The traffic investigators assigned to this accident must first determine whether or not the wrong-way driver was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. Also, the wrong-way driver was 76 years old, and his age may have been a factor. His age, neurological responses or vision could have caused him to miss the directional signs when he entered the southbound lanes of the freeway.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is pursuing two programs to determine the cause of wrong-way collisions and methods by which they can be effectively prevented. According to the Caltrans study, the majority of wrong way accidents are caused by drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Also, most wrong-way accidents occur after midnight. The study also found that a large percentage of such drivers are elderly, suicidal or attempting to escape from law enforcement officers.
Caltrans is experimenting with larger and brighter reflective markers alerting drivers that they were entering a freeway traveling in the wrong direction. These markers have proved to be so effective that they are being installed across the state.
The wrong-way accident under discussion demonstrates how destructive such accidents can be. The three injured persons may wish to recover damages for their medical expenses, lost earnings and future pain and suffering. While the facts of the case may seem simple, other factors may have played a role, such as negligence on the part of the truck driver. The assistance of an experienced accident attorney may make the difference between a large recovery and no recovery. A knowledgeable attorney can provide an evaluation of the evidence, suggest legal arguments to support a claim for damages and present the matter in court in an effective and persuasive manner.