Most wrong way drivers are under the influence

Written on behalf of Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

While driving in California, almost everyone has encountered a wrong-way driver at least once. In fact, it may even be fair to say that most people have been a wrong-way driver before, too. This may happen when someone is unfamiliar with an area and turns onto a one-way street or turns onto an exit ramp from the highway. Many people escape these scenarios with only a racing heart and honks from angry drivers who slow down while they pull off a hurried three-point turn.

Unfortunately, not everyone is this lucky. According to NBC News, wrong-way traffic crashes killed 4,000 people in the past ten years. Wrong-way drivers are especially deadly because they tend to cause head-on collisions. One in five of head-on collisions are fatal. Also, alcohol plays a role in 80% of wrong-way crashes.

One way to prevent wrong-way driving is to add more warning signs for one-way streets and exit ramps to prevent drivers from making a potentially fatal mistake. However, when these signs are two high up, they may be less effective. In the 1970s, California realized this and adopted lowered signs after conducting a successful experiment. The experiment and subsequent use of the lowered signs showed a reduction in wrong-way crashes and deaths.

For the people who encounter wrong-way drivers on the road, ABC12 News has some advice. When drivers notice headlights coming at them, pull over to right and stay clear of the vehicle. Drivers should resist the urge to slam on the brakes, since this could cause them to skid, thereby worsening the situation. The police officer who contributed to the article also confirmed that most wrong-way drivers are under the influence, while sometimes, it may be an elderly person who simply became confused.

While not mentioned in the article, some DUI teachers instruct students to turn off the headlights after they pull over. Why do this? If the wrong-way driver is intoxicated or falling asleep, lights may attract their attention, making the car a target even though it is now off the road.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


(415) 421-7995