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Curbing Wrong-Way Drivers with Traffic Lane Dividers

Wrong-way driving kills more than 300 Americans each year.  While the causes of the problem are many, traffic lane dividers can reduce the number of times it occurs, by making changing road conditions more apparent to motorists.

 

A high visibility problem

While wrong-way collisions aren’t the most common type of driving accident in the country, they tend to garner widespread attention from the media when they do occur, due to the amount of death, injury, and damage they cause.  For example, in June of this year, a wrong-way driver on a Los Angeles freeway collided with eight separate vehicles during a 15-minute spree that injured 12 and killed two.  Among those hurt were two California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers who were out of their vehicle investigating a prior accident.  The driver was later charged with driving while intoxicated. 

 

This was the second time in 2013 that the same stretch of road was menaced by a driver going in the wrong direction.  In February, a motorist who was under the influence of methamphetamines caused chaos, injury, and vehicle damage during an incident that shut down highway traffic for several hours.

 

Wrong way driving and the NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Met in December of 2012 to discuss a recently released report that looked at the major causes of wrong-way driving, along with ways to mitigate the problem.  The study analyzed 1,566 wrecks that occurred from 2004 to 2009.  Among its findings were the following facts:

  • Drinking under the influence (DUI) is a major factor in a majority of the incidents, with most wrong-way drivers having more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in their blood stream at the time of the crash.
  • Older drivers were overrepresented in the incidents, with approximately 15% of the incidents caused by motorists over 70 years of age.
  • Most of the incidents occurred in one of three ways: by the erring driver going the wrong way on an entrance or exit ramp, by the driver making s U-turn while traveling on a one-way road, or by drivers trying to use restricted turnarounds meant only for law enforcement and other emergency vehicles.
  • Wrong-way collisions on interstate highways are especially tragic in regards to property damage and loss of life.  These accidents usually occur at high speeds and involve head-on crashes, making traffic lane dividers an important option to consider. 

 

During the NTSB meeting, the primary means suggested for reducing the number of wrong-way accidents was increased use of ignition interlock devices.  These products disable vehicles when the operator has a high blood alcohol content level (BAC).  While they are currently legal across the US, not all states mandate their use with persons convicted of DUI offenses.

 

Additional causes of wrong-way driving

Many wrong-way driving accidents are also due to construction-related highway conditions.  Roadwork impacts drivers in many ways, such as the following:

  • Construction disrupts the patterns that drivers are accustomed to, including routes of travel and vehicle flow rates.
  • Construction often removes or obscures long-established road markings like yellow lines. 
  • Construction increases the amount of dust and other contaminants in the air, reducing overall visibility.
  • Construction is often accompanied by loud noises and other elements that distract drivers.
  • Construction often takes place after dark, when drivers are already more likely to be involved in accidents due to reduced visibility.
  • Construction projects divide the attention of many drivers, causing motorists to be on the alert for highway workers as well as other vehicles.

 

One of the most effective ways to counteract these effects is to use high-visibility temporary markers like delineators, bollards, traffic lane dividers, and other traffic safety products.  These devices assist motorists in navigating through construction sites, reducing the likelihood of wrong-way driving accidents.