Two people were killed in a wrong-way crash on the southbound 5 Freeway in Buena Park. According to a CBS Los Angeles news report, the early morning crash occurred at Magnolia Avenue when a car driving north in the southbound lanes at 100 mph crashed head-on into an SUV and burst into flames. California Highway Patrol officials said the collision left debris in all lanes. The drivers of both vehicles were killed. The driver of the SUV was identified as a man in his 50s while the wrong-way driver was a man in his 20s. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
The Danger of Wrong-Way Crashes
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), wrong-way car accidents occur relatively infrequently, accounting only for about 3 percent of accidents in high-speed divided highways. However, they are much more likely to result in serious injury and fatal car accidents compared to other types of highway accidents. A vast number of wrong-way collisions are head-on crashes. A substantial body of research conducted by state departments of transportation over several decades supports the fact that wrong-way crashes tend to have higher fatality rates than other accidents.
A study in Virginia found that the fatality rate for wrong-way collisions on controlled access highways was 27 times that of other types of accidents. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) found a fatality rate 12 times greater compared to all other accidents on controlled access highways. A study in Michigan found that 22 percent of wrong-way collisions were fatal compared to 0.3 percent for all highway accidents in the same time frame.
What Causes Wrong-Way Accidents?
Driver error is the most frequent cause of wrong-way accidents. Most of these incidents, particularly in Southern California, occur because drivers enter the wrong freeway ramp and head in the wrong direction. Why does this occur? Here are a few common causes:
- Impaired driving: This is probably the most common cause of wrong-way crashes in Southern California. Drivers who operate under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs have impaired judgment and are most likely to drive the wrong way.
- Distracted driving: When a driver is distracted by electronic devices, for example, a wrong-way crash could occur.
- Fatigued driving: Drowsy or sleepy drivers are also at risk of causing wrong-way drivers. In such cases, drivers run the risk of crossing over to opposing lanes of traffic and causing head-on collisions.
- Confusion: Drivers, especially elderly drivers who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's may also cause wrong-way collisions.
Can You Avoid Wrong-Way Crashes?
While not all of these crashes can be avoided, there are a few steps you can take to prevent them. When you drive, it is important to look beyond the first few cars ahead and scan the entire width of the roadway. This way, you will be able to see a wrong-way driver approaching and have sufficient time to take evasive action to avoid a collision. At nighttime, keep your eyes open for approaching headlights.
That is a red flag that should alert you immediately. Take a few additional steps especially when you travel late at night or early in the morning, which is when wrong-way crashes are most likely to occur. During these times, try to travel in the outer lane, which will give you a little bit of extra time to get out of the way.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
If you have been injured in a wrong-way car accident, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries, damages and losses from the at-fault parties. If you have lost a loved one in a wrong-way crash, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income and loss of love and companionship. An experienced wrongful death car accident lawyer will be able to help you better understand your legal rights and options.