Study Finds Almost Daily Deaths in Wrong-Way Crashes - News - @ JEMS.com


Study Finds Almost Daily Deaths in Wrong-Way Crashes

Data finds drivers in most crashes had high blood alcohol limits


 
 

JOAN LOWY, Associated Press | | Tuesday, December 11, 2012


WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of people are killed each a year when drivers turn the wrong-way into the face of oncoming traffic on high-speed highways, and a majority of the crashes involves drivers with blood alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit, a federal accident researcher said Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board was meeting to review a staff study of wrong-way collisions and consider recommendations on countermeasures to prevent such accidents. On average, 360 people are killed each year in wrong-way collisions, researchers said. In just the past week, 11 people were killed and 9 seriously injured in accidents in eight states, the board was told.

To address the problem, the board is considering recommending all states require convicted first-time drunken-driving offenders use ignition interlock devices that test their breath for alcohol concentration in order to drive. The devices, mounted on the vehicle's dashboard, prevent the engine from starting if the driver's alcohol concentration is too high. Seventeen states already have such a requirement.

The board's study analyzed data from 1,566 crashes from 2004 to 2009, as well as nine wrong way collisions NTSB directly investigated. In 59 percent of the accidents, wrong-way drivers had blood alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit, researchers said. In another 10 percent of the crashes, drivers had alcohol levels between .08 and .14. The limit in most instances is .08.

Older drivers also appear to be part of the problem, researchers said. Drivers over age 70 were overrepresented in the accidents, accounting for 15 percent of the wrong-way drivers compared to only 3 percent of the right-way drivers they collided with, researchers said.

Wrong-driving crashes on interstates, expressways and other high-speed highways are especially deadly because over 80 percent involve head-on collisions in which vehicles close in on each other very rapidly, they said. A 2012 study in Michigan found that 22 percent of wrong-way collisions were fatal, compared to .3 percent for all highway accidents over the same period.

"Wrong-way crashes shatter lives and families," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said.

Often the chain of events begins with drivers entering an exit ramp in the wrong direction, making a U-turn on the mainline of a highway or using an emergency turnaround through a median, investigators said.

Most wrong-way crashes — including seven of the nine accidents investigated by NTSB — take place in the fast lane of the highway, investigators said.

Reducing drunk driving is perhaps the most obvious way to reduce wrong-driving fatalities and injuries. The board hosted a forum earlier this year on the problem of drivers impaired by alcohol and drugs.

Alcohol-impaired crashes overall accounted for nearly 31 percent of the country's 32,000 motor vehicle fatalities 2010. And, that percentage has remained stuck between 30 and 32 percent of overall highway fatalities since 1995, board members said.

Safety advocates have been lobbying states to pass more laws requiring ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, states that already have such laws on the books are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Missouri's law does take effect until next fall. Also, four California counties — including Los Angeles — have ignition interlock laws.

"The laws may vary some, but the common thread is that they are for all first time offenders," Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the association, said.

___

Online:

National Transportation Safety Board http://www.ntsb.gov

___

Follow Joan Lowy at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, research, highway accident

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Truck Strikes Pedestrians in Scotland

Six killed in downtown Glasgow.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >