With four wrong-way driving accidents in the Chicago-area in the last few weeks, safety advocates are looking into potential causes. The Illinois Department of Transportation is planning a study involving wrong-way driving car accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board is planning a separate study into a problem they say occurs, “fairly frequently.” Both groups hope to find ways to reduce or eliminate the problem of wrong-way driving.
Last Monday, a man turned his car around on Interstate 80, apparently asking his passengers if they were “ready to die.” Four people died as a result of that wrong-way incident. Two more people were hurt in a wrong-way crash that occurred on Friday on the Stevenson Expressway. While both accidents are still being investigated, both may have involved the factor most common in wrong-way driving cases-alcohol.
Many methods for curbing drunk driving have been discussed. Ignition interlock devices for convicted offenders and harsh penalties designed to discourage drunk driving have had some impact. Technology may someday prevent anyone who is inebriated from operating a motor vehicle. For now, those wishing to reduce wrong-way driving accidents must focus on notifying the offending driver and others on the roads of the danger. Flashing lights, electronic signs, radar, and even sensors in the ground could be used to inform everyone involved that a vehicle is going in the wrong direction.
While Monday’s fatal accident involved a driver who apparently knew he was going the wrong way and was purposefully endangering people’s lives, most involve a mistake. Whether that mistake is caused by alcohol or simple confusion, there are things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of a wrong-way accident. Hopefully, the studies by IDOT and the NTSB pinpoint the most effective measures for reducing wrong-way car accidents.