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Wrong-way driving a growing cause of California accidents

Whether it is a result of a driver operating under the influence of alcohol or an honest mistake by the driver, the number of car accidents caused by wrong-way driving is on the rise in California and throughout the United States.

Drivers rarely expect to encounter another vehicle driving directly in their path, which puts them at a great risk of an auto accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that in 2009 alone, 1,772 people throughout the country died in a car crash involving a wrong-way driver. That year proved to be the deadliest year for wrong-way driving in five years.

This is a trend that is prompting lawmakers around the country to enact measures that will help deter and prevent wrong-way accidents. Some of these precautions include a better form of warning a driver if they are entering a road the wrong way and also alerting other drivers and authorities if they do. Some states have installed more divided highways in addition to cable and concrete median barriers.

California has tested a number of measures, such as adding spikes in medians so they would puncture a driver's tires if they veered into oncoming traffic. California also experimented with horns and flashing red lights on wrong-way signs, automatic gates across exit ramps and red reflective tape on the back of road signs. These techniques have had varied success, and traffic safety officials continue to work on developing methods of deterring wrong-way drivers.

Many people who inadvertently enter a freeway traveling the wrong direction quickly figure out their error, correct it, and are never apprehended by police. However, three-fourths of wrong-way drivers who are involved in crashes or who are ticketed are under the influence of alcohol. These motorists also tend to have more traffic violations and felony convictions than the average driver.

Source: The Arizona Republic, "Arizona testing new safeguards against wrong-way drivers," Sean Holstege, Oct. 15, 2011

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