On February 8, two older women were killed in a car accident on I-49. According to U.S. News & World Report, both women were in their 70s, and the collision occurred “when a sport utility vehicle driver… mistakenly entered the southbound lanes of the interstate traveling north, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.” The vehicles hit head-on, and both drivers died at the scene.
Everything about this story is tragic, and our hearts go out to the families of both victims. But it did get us thinking about wrong-way crashes, and how often they result in fatalities. According to Fox 2 Now, Missouri is 4th in the nation for fatal wrong-way accidents; there were more than 300 in 2019 alone. By comparison, the Insurance Information Institute reports there were 1,223 drivers involved in fatal wrong-way collisions in total that year.
Wrong-way accidents are, thankfully, rare, but they are often deadly. There are three primary reasons for this:
- They usually involve head-on collisions. A head-on crash with another moving vehicle (or even a stationary object) is one of the deadliest accidents there are. They account for about 10% of all traffic fatalities, even though they are not common accidents. Even if you are lucky enough to survive, the force of the impact almost always causes catastrophic injuries to the brain and neck, and often result in significant damage to the legs.
- They are more common among older drivers. Analysis conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that drivers over age 70 were most likely to be in a wrong-way crash. This same age cohort is particularly susceptible to serious injuries. In other words, drivers over 70 are more likely to die in a crash in general.
- The victims are not in vehicles. While the majority of wrong-way collisions affect the drivers and passengers in those vehicles, these crashes do not happen in a vacuum. Many times, the cars will spin out and hit whatever is near them – including medians, pedestrians, and other objects. Further, not all wrong-way crashes occur between two cars. Motorcycle riders are at risk no matter who hits them, and passenger vehicles can be crushed if the collision involves a tractor-trailer or other commercial truck.
There are other reasons possible why wrong-way collisions are often fatal. For example, these crashes are more likely to take place at night, when there are fewer drivers on the road. As such, it may take longer for emergency services to be alerted to the crash, and that delay can cost people their lives. The same is true for rural wrong-way collisions. Even if EMS is called immediately, it can still take time to reach one of the few Level 1 trauma centers in the state, which means survivors lose precious time.
What are the risk factors for wrong-way accidents?
Aside from age, there are several risk factors for wrong-way accidents. You are more likely to be in a wrong-way accident if:
- A driver is drunk. The AAA Foundation found that about 60% of all wrong-way crashes involved an impaired driver.
- A driver is alone. Almost 87% of wrong-way crashes involved a driver without a passenger.
- A driver is from out-of-state. Lack of familiarity with the roads can contribute to wrong-way accidents.
- The road design is dangerous. Not all wrong-way collisions are caused by driver negligence. Defective road design can also increase the risk of a wrong-way crash. Missing or inadequate signage, broken lights, eroded lane markers, poorly-marked exit ramps, whether or not there was construction in the area – each one of these poses a danger to drivers.
What kinds of injuries are caused by wrong-way accidents?
Though fatal injuries are common, not all wrong-way accidents lead to wrongful deaths. Drivers and their passengers can also sustain life-altering injuries. The most common include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spine and spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Multiple broken bones, including ribs, sternum, collarbones, and clavicle
- Crushed and fractures arms and legs (from bracing for impact)
- Cervical fractures in the neck and back
- Burn injuries
- Traumatic amputation and loss of limb
Should I hire a St. Louis car accident attorney after a wrong-way crash?
If you or a loved one was critically injured in a car accident, working with a St. Louis injury attorney is in your best interest. Wrong-way crashes in particular can be incredibly complex. They may involve multiple vehicles or claims against local or state government agencies, based on the cause of the wreck. These types of cases take time to dissect, analyze, and build, and having an experienced legal team on your side can only help.
Because of the nature of the injuries caused by wrong-way collisions, victims may require extensive care and treatment. Many will need surgeries and rehabilitation. Some injuries may leave people unable to walk, let alone work. All of this creates a considerable financial burden on a family at a time when their primary focus should be on healing.
This is where we come in. We are the ones who handle the insurance companies (who mostly do not want to pay out on claims, even when you’ve spent your entire life paying for insurance), work with your doctors, and prepare your case to be heard by a jury. We know that for some of our clients, the idea of a jury trial is frightening. We also know that a jury trial “scares” a lot of insurance companies, too – and our willingness to take your story to a jury of your peers means they often come to the negotiation table with a much more just offer from the start. When they do not, we are prepared to ask a jury for fair and just compensation for your extensive medical bills, your lost wages and loss of potential earnings, and your pain and suffering. When a wrong-way crash causes the death of your loved one, we ask for funeral and burial expenses on top these other damages, because the last thing you should have to do is pay for someone else’s negligence.
Wrong-way car accidents can cause long-lasting injuries and change the course of your life forever. At The Hayden Law Firm, we put the full power of our firm behind your case. Schedule a free consultation with a St. Louis car accident attorney by calling 314-480-3100 or filling out our contact form. We are based in St. Louis, Missouri, but our firm proudly serves clients throughout Missouri and Illinois.
Attorney Amanda L. Hayden has dedicated her legal career to fearlessly advocating for clients and their families after their lives have been devastated by the careless and/or reckless conduct of others.
Read more about Amanda L. Hayden