Wrong-Way, Head-on Auto Accidents: Close Encounters of the Deadliest Kind

Many people as of now have heard about the wrong-way collision earlier this week on Route 496 in Middleborough, which killed all occupants of both vehicles – 5 people in total.  They included the 31 year-old drive of the vehicle driving the wrong way on Route 495, and the 4 occupants of the vehicle that she hit.  Those 4 occupants were college students from schools in the Worcester area.

There’s been some talk lately about how, on a statistical level, wrong-way motor vehicle crashes or head-on car crashes are fairly rare.  On a purely statistical level, that’s true:   These type of motor vehicle accidents amounted to just 3 percent of crashes on divided highways recently, killing about 360 people every year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA.)  But while those numbers may not seem so high, here’s another truth:  These types of motor vehicle accidents are, statistically, far more fatal than other types of car accidents.   In my long career as a Massachusetts highway accident attorney, I’ve seen the reality of this on an up-close, more often than I care to say.  The reasons for this are just a few, but very powerful:

  • Drivers usually end up driving in the wrong direction because they mistakenly enter an exit ramp, instead of an entrance ramp. Very importantly, because these ramps run on and off highways, the colliding vehicles are traveling at high speeds – and hitting each other head-on.
  • Drivers in wrong-way accidents tend to be either unlicensed or to have some other licensing issue than do drivers in other types of motor vehicle accidents.
  • Alcohol is more than twice as likely to play a role in fatal wrong-way crashes than in other types of motor vehicle crashes; and
  • Consistent with alcohol being a factor in these types of motor vehicle accidents, wrong-way collisions most usually occur between the hours of 12:00 AM and 3 AM – with the majority of them occurring on weekends.

Just how much more dangerous are wrong-way auto accidents?  Reliable studies put the fatality rate for wrong-way car crashes somewhere between 12 and 27 times higher than for other types of motor vehicle accidents.  As I said above, one reason this is so, is because the wrong-way drivers are using ramps running on and off highways, which means the vehicles are traveling at high speeds.

Recently, there have been several Massachusetts wrong-way car accidents resulting in death:

  • A 28-year-old Rutland, Massachusetts man died in August, driving the wrong way on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Southborough.
  • In July, a wrong-way driver hit another car on Interstate 495 in Mansfield. Both drivers were killed in the accident.
  • A wrong-way, head-on accident in May just over the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border killed a man from Bedford Massachusetts as well as an off-duty Rhode Island police officer on Interstate 95 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Also just outside Massachusetts, there have wrong-way fatalities in New England in the past few months.

The take-away from all of this?  As a Route 128 Massachusetts car accident lawyer who has seen too many of these accidents, my advice is as follows:

  • Always try to avoid driving in a lane that abuts or is close to a highway off-ramp or on-ramp.
  • Be especially wary when driving any time at night, but especially during the late night and early morning hours, and on weekends.
  • Be especially attentive when driving near any public festivity events, such as sports games and/or concerts.

And if regrettably either you or someone you care about has been injured in a Massachusetts head-on car crash or a Massachusetts wrong-way collision, make sure that the law firm that you hire has extensive experience with these types of cases, and can demonstrate a proven track record of success.  Because of the reasons I outlined further above in this post, due to either fatalities or extremely serious injuries that usually result from these events, the damages in these specific types of motor vehicle accidents are almost always very high.  If you don’t have the “right” lawyer representing you, you could lose a great deal of money – if not the whole case.