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Illinois officials focus safety efforts on wrong-way crashes

Accidents involving cars speeding down the wrong side of a highway may seem rare, but they aren't as uncommon as you may think. Illinois transportation officials recorded over 1,200 wrong-way auto accidents in 2012. The state is concerned about the number of these highway accidents and the horrific pain and suffering many of them cause.

Illinois ranks seventh among all states for the highest number of deaths in wrong-way crash deaths. The Illinois Department of Transportation has not been idle. State officials are learning all they can about these accidents, so plans can be made and put into effect to prevent them.

It's not surprising that transportation researchers learned most wrong-way drivers were intoxicated. State troopers reported drug or alcohol impairment was evident in 69 percent of wrong-way accidents. Other common threads were driver age and accident location.

Chances for an older driver to be behind the wheel during a wrong-way collision were three times greater than for younger drivers. Researchers noticed the majority of these crashes happened in cities and at highway interchanges, where ramp entrances and exits could be confused. Eighty percent of all wrong-way collisions in Illinois have been nighttime accidents.

Some improvements already have been made on roads around the state. Four hundred interchanges have had upgrades. New pavement markings and signs were put in place to make on and off-ramps more visible.

Wrong-way crashes nationwide constitute approximately three percent of all collisions on divided highways. High-speed vehicles headed straight for one another create tremendous personal loss. Injuries for victims who survive can be debilitating; families of loved ones who die are often permanently scarred emotionally and financially.

Wrong-way drivers may see car accident victims in two courts. A criminal trial can result in harsh punishments. A civil court may hold reckless or negligent drivers accountable financially. Plaintiffs may receive economic damages plus additional punitive damages, when a defendant's bad behavior is extreme.

Source: WICS News Channel 20, "IDOT Officials Looking To Reduce Wrong-Way Driving Crashes" No author given, Feb. 19, 2014

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