Last week, three adults and one toddler died in a devastating three-car crash just south of Austin. Just one week prior, a different driver was heading northbound on a southbound access lane when he struck a vehicle waiting at the light, killing one man and injuring his pregnant wife who gave birth to a premature baby who needed neonatal intensive care. The most tragic part about both of these accidents is the circumstances for each were entirely preventable, had both drivers not been driving the wrong way on or along IH-35.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has been closely monitoring the number of wrong-way collisions in Texas, as they have been increasing since 2011.
Wrong-Way Driving In Austin Related to Drug and Alcohol
Wrong-way driving typically occurs downtown, as Austin has many one-way streets at the heart of the city. However, the deadliest wrong-way accidents occur when drivers are speeding the opposite way down major freeways, such as IH-35. Typically, these wrong-way accidents all have several things in common:
- Most occur late at night, between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m.
- Wrong-way accidents can happen on roads with confusing entrance ramp and exit ramp design
- More often than not, most wrong-way accidents (especially on IH-35) are caused by drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs.
Due to the fact most of these accidents are intense, head-on collisions, which results in more serious and fatal injuries. Moreover, wrong-way accidents are typically difficult to avoid as victims rarely are able to anticipate the wrong-way driver’s movements and don’t know how to evade them.
What is Texas Doing to Stop Wrong-Way Crashes
According to TxDOT, wrong-way crashes occur sporadically in the Austin area. As of now, the department says they are conducting two separate research studies to hopefully decrease the number of roadway deaths in Texas, however, TxDOT did not mention whether either of these studies were specifically focused on wrong-way accidents.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio areas, the cities have installed sensors on highways that detect when drivers are going the wrong way. When this happens, the sensor triggers flashing wrong way signs that alert drivers of their error.
TxDOT is also considering the installation of spike strips to highway exit and entrance ramps. However, these strips are designed to stop cars traveling at high speeds. The installation of these spikes would mean the city would have to reduce the speeds on the ramps, otherwise drivers who aren’t going the wrong way would still be affected. Additionally, TxDOT is proposing increasing the signs of wrong way signs, adding reflective tape or installing flashing LED lights to make them hard to miss. One thing is for certain: wrong-way accidents are becoming more frequent in Austin, so the city’s transportation officials need to act fast to prevent further unnecessary deaths.