An Overview of Wrong Way Auto Accidents in Massachusetts

A wrong way car crash may be one of the most difficult collisions to comprehend and cope with and it can happen to anyone.  These types of car accidents may come out of nowhere and you may not have any way of escaping.  They have a high likelihood of being very disastrous.  The majority of wrong way collisions are head-on crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, head-on car accidents account for approximately 18% of all traffic fatalities. 

How do Wrong Way Car Crashes Happen?

People often have a hard time understanding how drivers end up traveling the wrong way. Sure, when drivers are rested, feel great, and it’s a well-lit beautiful day, it is hard to imagine driving the wrong way down a highway or street. But, it happens. Here are some typical causes of wrong way crashes

Wrong Way on a Massachusetts Highway

We have seen accidents on major highways in Massachusetts, such as Route 128 (I-95), the Mass Pike, and 495. It is usually accidents on those highways that end with serious injuries because of the speed people drive on the highways. When this type of accident happens on the highway, it is usually because someone wasn’t paying attention and entered the highway exit failing to see the “Wrong Way” signs.

In Massachusetts, just a few months ago, five victims were killed in a wrong way driving accident in Middleboro, Massachusetts.  These young adults’ death remind us of the tragedy that could result from this type of an accident. NBC 10 News reported the woman driving the wrong way was 31-years-old.  She was traveling south in the northbound lane on I-495.  It’s believed the motorist was traveling against traffic in the high-speed lane when she struck the other vehicle, killing four college-aged adults.

Wrong Way Accident on a Side Street

Wrong way accidents also occur on side streets in Massachusetts. In our office, we have handled injuries suffered in head-on collisions where one driver was traveling the wrong way on a side street. A lot of times, it is a driver that is from out-of-state and/or not familiar with the roadways in Massachusetts that end up traveling the wrong way on some side streets. We all know how some cities and towns have one way streets everywhere and those, sometimes difficult to navigate, rotaries. Could you imagine if you were not familiar with driving around downtown Boston? You could easily make the same mistake and drive the wrong way down and one-way street.

Distracted or Intoxicated Drivers

A confused or distracted motorist is another common cause of a wrong way accident. It’s a driver that is not paying attention or is distracted by their cell phone, radio, or music that sometimes leads to driving the wrong way on a highway or street. A distracted driver can easily miss a sign that says “Wrong Way” or “Do Not Enter”.   

Wrong way car collisions are also caused by intoxicated drivers. There are plenty of studies that show how alcohol impairs a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. Alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the motor functions of the central nervous system and also impacts our ability to process information. This means that a drunk driver may not be aware of where he or she is driving and ends up driving the wrong way on the highway or street. Drunk driving generally accounts for more than half, about 60%, of all wrong way accidents.

Similarly, marijuana can impair the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The main chemical in marijuana, THC, affects the part of the brain that controls body movements, coordination and judgment. There have been numerous studies that establish how marijuana negatively affects a driver’s attentiveness. This can also lead to a driver traveling the wrong way on a highway or street.

Common Injuries Sustained in a Wrong Way Car Accident

One of the reasons wrong way accidents are so serious is because they often occur when the drivers are traveling at high speeds.  High speed car accidents often result in catastrophic injuries.  A catastrophic injury is one that results in permanent functional disability, severe impairment, or wrongful death.  A wrong way car accident often results in severe injuries such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, back injuries, and facial scarring.

Even wrong way car accidents that occur at lower speeds can result in severe injuries. Common injuries resulting from a low speed wrong way car accident are back injuries, neck injuries and concussions.  

Awareness is Key in Preventing Injuries in Wrong Way Car Accidents

Unfortunately, wrong way car accidents are often times out of your control.  However, there are some ways to try to prevent a wrong way collision:

  • Be aware of the cars around you.  While driving, it is crucial to pay attention to what is happening beyond your immediate view.  Scanning the traffic far ahead of you will confirm that you’re aware of the traffic conditions.  Therefore, providing a safer driving experience.
  • Stay to the right of the road.  Traveling the farthest from oncoming traffic can reduce your chances of being involved in a wrong way car accident.  Additionally, traffic experts advise you to swerve to the right to avoid a head-on collision if possible.
  • Avoid distractions.  Distractions can include cell phones, other drivers, weather condition, outside commotions, and passengers.  Distractions automatically increase your risk of danger.  Eating, drinking, using a GPS, or playing with the radio are also common distraction activities when driving.
  • Wear your seat belt.  Wearing your seat belt may not prevent a wrong way car accident, but it can decrease your chances of becoming seriously injured by 50%.  A seat belt should be worn across your lap, diagonally across your chest, and secured tightly at the buckle. Not wearing your seat belt can have a negative impact on not only your safety, but a personal injury claim. 

Get Legal Help

Settlements, or verdicts, for wrong way car accident injuries can be significant.  This is because wrong way car crashes tend to result in serious injuries and cause significant pain and suffering and, in some cases, permanent or partial disability.  If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident involving a driver traveling in the wrong direction on Massachusetts roadways, the car accident lawyers at Mahaney & Pappas, LLP can help.  Feel free to give us a call at (508) 879-3500 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.