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How to prevent a wrong way accident

January 16, 2018 by Steven M. Gursten

MDOT implements new measures to prevent a wrong way accident from occurring, as car crashes, deaths and injuries have increased in recent years

What is the MDOT doing to prevent a wrong way accident from occurring?

The biggest problem with trying to find a way to prevent a wrong way accident is that the majority of these car accidents occur without the at-fault driver even knowing they were driving on the wrong side of the road until it is too late. This is why the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Michigan State Police (MSP) and Southeast Michigan Transportation Operations Center (SEMTOC) are working together on safety measures “to reduce the frequency of wrong-way driving incidents on the state’s freeways,” according to a January 8, 2018, MDOT press release.

Specifically, the strategy that the MDOT, MSP and SEMTOC are pursuing has two targets:

  • Safety measures such as road signs, street markings and reflectors that are aimed at preventing drivers from going the wrong way on a freeway or highway.
  • Safety advice for drivers who encounter a wrong way driver.

This is good news for drivers.

In my nearly 25 years of legal practice as a Michigan car accident attorney, I know first-hand how dangerous these wrong way accidents can be.

Head-on collisions, which is how far too many of the wrong way accidents result, are always tragic and, often, involve fatalities or serious personal injury.

Between 2012 and 2016, Michigan Traffic Crash Facts data shows the following:

  • Wrong way crashes, overall, have increased approximately 14% from 373 in 2012 to 427 in 2016.
  • Fatal wrong way crashes have increased approximately 800% from 1 in 2012 to 9 in 2016.
  • Wrong way auto accidents resulting in injury have increased approximately 29% from 110 in 2012 to 142 in 2016.

(Sources: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, 2012-2016, Vehicle/Driver, Driver Hazardous Action, “Drove wrong way”)

What is MDOT doing to prevent a wrong way accident from occurring?

Here are the steps that the MDOT is taking to reduce the chance of a wrong way accident actually happening:

  • Using digital roadside message signs, the MDOT will notify motorists of “active wrong-way driver situations” by using the following message to “alert the drivers who are traveling in the correct direction of the possible wrong-way driver ahead”: “Wrong Way Driver Reported In Area Use Extreme Caution.”
  • “MDOT also is placing wrong-way arrow markings on freeway ramps …”
  • The MDOT “has installed detection cameras for the earliest possible alerts of wrong-way drivers.”
  • “[T]o help alert wrong-way drivers,” especially in areas where there have been “repeat offenders,” the MDOT has installed “a lane separator system composed of plastic curb and reflective panels, which physically blocks the wrong-way movement,” i.e., “entrance on to the wrong way ramp.”
  • Additionally, “[e]nhanced red delineation and additional pavement markings also help prevent drivers from entering the freeway in the wrong direction.”
  • MDOT has “lowered the bottom height on the ‘Wrong Way – Do Not Enter’ signs” and it is “installing red reflective panels on those signs to help enhance the visibility.”
  • “To guide the driver into the correct lane,” MDOT is “installing yellow pavement markings …”

What should drivers do to avoid being involved in a wrong way accident?

In the video embedded in the MDOT press release, the following advice is given for how right-way drivers can stay safe in the event they encounter a wrong-way driver:

  • “Don’t panic.”
  • “Stay out of the left lane.” That’s because, as MSP Special Enforcement Section Commander Lt. Michael A. Shaw explains, “a majority of the time, these wrong way drivers [who end up driving on the freeway’s inside, far left shoulder, next to the cement median] think they’re in the right lane of travel, going the right direction.”

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