Wrong Way Accidents Present a Deadly Threat
A head-on collision on a South Carolina highway that killed a wrong-way driver made national headlines recently, but not because wrong-way driving is an anomaly. The accident made the 24-hour news cycle because it left Congressional candidate Katie Arrington with multiple, severe injuries. Arrington sustained a fracture to her back, broken ribs and a partial collapse of a main artery in her leg. After surgery, Ms. Arrington is expected to recover. But, less conspicuous was the reporting on an equally deadly wrong-way crash here in New Jersey that took the life of a Scarsdale man around the same time.
According to Lt. Ted Schafer of the New Jersey State Police, as reported on mycentralnewjersey.com, the collision occurred at 11:28 a.m. on Monday, June 11 at mile marker 93.6. Anthony Scalfano, 55, of Oakdale, New York, was traveling north in a 2015 Freightliner box truck on the northbound outer roadway.
Unfortunately, Steven Hom, 57, was driving his 2009 Honda Civic in the same lane in the wrong direction, and the Civic struck the front of the truck. Hom was pronounced dead at the scene, while Scalfano sustained minor injuries.
Garden State residents might also recall that in August of last year, a 21-year-old Florida man was killed when he drove his SUV the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike and struck another SUV head on. The occupants of the second vehicle were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
So, how often do wrong-way driving (WWD) accidents occur? And how deadly are they?
According to the Federal Highway Administration, “In the United States, WWD crashes result in 300 to 400 people killed each year…representing approximately 1 percent of…fatalities…annually. While this is a small percentage overall, because WWD crashes involve head-on or opposite direction sideswipe crashes at high speeds, they tend to be relatively more severe than other types of crashes.” In other words, WWDs are relatively rare, but especially dangerous. So dangerous that FHWA has an ongoing campaign to address this serious threat.
FHWA recognizes the common causes of WWDs to be:
- Intoxicated drivers
- Elderly drivers
- Distracted drivers
- Absence of raised medians or other physical obstructions dividing opposing lanes of traffic
- Poorly designed exit ramps that too closely resemble on-ramps
- Absence of conspicuous signage warning against entry
- Intersections where left-turning vehicles can too easily advance into the oncoming lane
FHWA has urged agencies in charge of our nation’s highways to make design changes to remediate problem roadways. One key step would be to evaluate exit ramp designs and implement changes that radically distinguish them from on ramps to remove any possible confusion.
Although WWD crashes represent a small percentage of accidents, the harm they do is extensive and, in many cases, irreparable. To the extent that poor roadway design contributes to the problem, state and federal authorities should take decisive steps to reduce the risk to the public.
Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers represents victims of motor vehicle accidents throughout New Jersey. To speak to an experienced personal injury attorney at our firm, call us at 973-364-8300 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.