Fatal Car Crashes Resulting from Wrong-way Drivers

To many people, driving in and around cities such as Annapolis, Baltimore, Gaithersburg, or the District of Columbia may hardly seem like a risky activity, but to many traffic safety experts, there is much to be concerned about in busy urban centers. Although accidents along interstates, beltways and rural roadways have their own drawbacks -- such as the increased severity of automobile and commercial truck collisions due to higher average speeds -- getting around in the city or downtown areas can also provide sufficient opportunity for fender-benders, or worse.

For Maryland motorists, among whom the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, count themselves, the mere act of getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and pulling onto a public roadway can expose a driver and his passengers to potential bodily injury. Every day, all across Maryland, there are instances of innocent people being seriously hurt or critically injured as a result of a traffic collision with another passenger car, commercial delivery truck, city bus, or other motor vehicle.

As professional auto accident lawyers, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, knows that statistics rarely lie when it comes to the frequency of severe car, truck and motorcycle crashes, many of which send dozens of people to hospital emergency rooms each week. Some of these individuals require emergency surgery to save their lives, while others may have lesser injuries that necessitate several days’ stay in a hospital room for observation. Broken bones, neck and back injuries, closed-head trauma, and internal injuries are just a few of the typical results from more serious highway impacts.

Sadly, a percentage of victims never make it home, having died at the scene of a bad road accident or, after being taken to a hospital for treatment, succumbing to multiple injuries after doctors and nurses have attempted to resuscitate them. There are no winners when it comes to high-speed automobile collisions. Add the weight disparity between a passenger car and semi tractor-trailer wreck and there can be multiple victims -- many in the same vehicle -- when commercial trucking collisions take place.

Of the more deadly highway accidents that happen form time to time, those involving head-on crashes can often be fatal. At the very least, sometimes one or more people in either vehicle can end up with life-threatening injuries. As auto accident experts, Lebowitz & Mzhen’s legal staff knows of numerous head-on accidents that have ended with the death of one or more innocent people. A fraction of these types of fatal head-to-head traffic collisions involve wrong-way drivers.

Whether the result of drunkenness or impairment by prescription or illegal drugs, a wrong-way automobile or commercial trucking accident can often be attributed to negligence on someone’s part. If a plaintiff -- or his family, in the case of wrongful death -- can prove negligence, there is a good chance of recovering damages for medical, rehab and lost wages. This all depends on the facts of the personal injury claim and the skill of the particular trial lawyer. In some situations, a preponderance of the evidence may be enough to bring about an out-of-court settlement, which could also save the victim and/or his family the anguish and emotional pain of a drawn-out courtroom trial.

The difficult reality is that the potential victim of a wrong-way driver has a very limited amount of time to react to the threat of an oncoming vehicle. Instances of motorists who accidentally entered a highway via an exit ramp can mean that the closing speed of the two vehicles is upward of 100mph or more. At these high speeds, the distance of a football field can be traversed in less than three seconds; the ability of an average driver to recognize the gravity of the situation and then react quickly enough to avoid a possibly fatal crash is very poor.

Because of the unpredictability of these types of roadway collisions, and the deadly results that can often result, it is not surprising that wrong-way accidents are one of the most feared kinds of traffic accidents. When another motor vehicle is coming at you and going the wrong way, the odds of a collision can be quite high. Lebowitz & Mzhen know that preventing such occurrences is the job of law enforcement officials, highway designers and traffic engineers, but motorists themselves can at the very least acquaint themselves with some of the steps to take to reduce the chances of becoming a victim of this kind of deadly wreck.

Staying Alert on the Road

While it won’t prevent another driver from taking a wrong turn and heading into traffic, staying alert and aware of traffic situation can help you from making a similar driving error and going the wrong way yourself on a Maryland roadway. Being tired after driving for hours, or allowing oneself to be distracted even for a few seconds, can result in a driver entering an exit ramp the wrong way. In such cases, especially late at night, it may not be readily obvious that one is headed the wrong way until another car is observed coming toward you. Remember that staying focused and alert while operating any motor vehicle is the key to preventing a mistake that could lead to injury or death.

Do Not Operate a Car, Truck or Motorcycle While Impaired

The ability of a person to drive with an adequate margin of safety can become severely reduced when alcohol, prescription medication or illicit substances are introduced. It is hardly surprising that a percentage of individuals who have been charged with driving down a one-way street have also been found to be drunk or otherwise impaired at the time of the incident.

Wrong-way driving can happen very easily when a driver has been drinking or has taken drugs; a high level of impairment often means that he or she doesn’t even know a wrong turn was even made in the first place. To avoid a deadly wrong-way accident, every motorist should refrain from operating a car or truck when their skill level has been compromised by alcohol or drugs.

Avoid Driving in Unfamiliar Areas

Being comfortable with one’s travel route and eventual destination can go a long way toward preventing a deadly head-on collision. Although it is not always possible to know every route one travels each week, being familiar with the general area can decrease one’s chances of being caught up in a deadly wrong-way crash. Many traffic safety advocates recommend that motorists avoid driving on roadways or urban areas where they may not feel that comfortable.

If you don't have a good idea of where you are headed, reviewing a map beforehand or using a GPS device can help to reduce the chances of a bad accident. In the worst of situations, consider stopping your vehicle in a safe place away from the roadway for a while in order to reacquaint yourself with the local roads, or ask another driver traveling with you if he or she would take over the driving and finish getting you and your vehicle safely to your destination.

Doing one’s part to avoid accidently going the wrong way is important. But if another vehicle is obviously coming toward your vehicle, it is imperative to take evasive action to avoid a collision. There are a number of strategies that might help avoid a crash or lessen the severity of an impact with a wrong-way driver. None of these are foolproof, but with a little skill and some luck, motorists who find themselves in a similar situation could possibly save their lives and those of their passengers.

Pull Off to the Side of the Road

Depending on the design of the roadway and other driving conditions, a driver who realizes he or she is in immediate danger of being hit head-on by a wrong-way driver can perhaps avoid a collision by quickly and safely pulling one’s vehicle over to the side of the roadway. If at all possible, move to the farthest part of the roadway shoulder (as long as doing so doesn’t further jeopardize your safety or the safety of your vehicle and passengers). Getting as far away from a wrong-way driver is the best defense against being involved in a serious head-to-head road wreck.

Attempt to Alert the Wayward Driver

When a motorist notices that another driver is coming toward his vehicle and is going to wrong way in the process, it may be possible to signal the errant driver that there is something wrong. Continuously honking one’s car horn and flashing the headlights at the approaching vehicle until it passes may catch the other driver's attention. If so, there is a possibility that he will realize his mistake and pull off the road safely.

Alert the Authorities by Calling 911

Using one’s cellphone to call the police is important in such situations, and may save other lives. Safely dialing the state or local police to report a wrong-way driver would help to reduce the chances of someone else being hurt or killed. In high-population centers like Baltimore or Washington, D.C., there may even be an officer close by who could locate and stop a dangerous wrong-way motorist in time.

As experienced personal injury attorneys and skilled auto accident lawyers, the legal staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen understand that few, if any, people intentionally go ahead and drive the wrong way on a Maryland beltway, interstate or surface street; however, the threat remains because people do make mistakes from time to time. As conscientious motorists, we must all remember to remain alert when driving through areas we may not be totally familiar with.

And, if you see a vehicle traveling the wrong way, stay safe; get out of the way and try to let the other driver know that they are in danger. However, if you or someone you know has been injured by a wrong-way driver, contacting a qualified Maryland car accident attorney may be important when trying to recover the cost of emergency room treatments, surgical procedures, and physical therapy following a bad automobile wreck.

As a victim of a traffic collision, an injured driver should seriously consider retaining the services of a skilled personal injury lawyer. This is especially important in cases where medical costs are high and the victim has lost a significant portion of his or her income due to the injuries suffered at the hands of a negligent motorist. Holding accountable those individuals whose actions have caused injury or death to an innocent person is only natural. One of the more important questions that any car or trucking accident victim should ask himself is, “Am I better off now than I was before the accident?” Odds are, especially when an accident was the result of a wrong-way motorist, is that the victim is far from doing well.

In such situations, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen suggests that the injured party seriously consider filing a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover damages. There is no reason why victims should be expected to shoulder the burden of medical expenses and rehab costs brought about by the negligent actions of another driver. If you have been badly injured in a passenger car, commercial truck or motorcycle crash, Lebowitz & Mzhen is ready and willing to assist you with your case. Contact us at (800) 654-1949 for a free, no-obligation consultation; or send an email to either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to set an appointment for a face-to-face meeting.