Texas, We Have a Problem
Wrong-way highway wrecks are a problem in our state. When they occur, the results are disastrous. A large percentage of these accidents lead to incapacitating injuries or death. While the percentage of wrong-way crashes itself is not huge, the damages are often catastrophic, and the primary causes are well known.
Drunk Driving Is the Leading Cause of Wrong-Way Collisions
Intoxication—often severe intoxication—is the cause of many of these preventable wrecks. Scott Cooner, Program Director at Texas A&M Transportation Institute calculates that approximately two-thirds of the wrong-way highway collisions are caused by intoxicated drivers. Of those, the blood alcohol content is routinely two times the legal limit…meaning, a person is double drunk.
These wrecks more commonly occur between midnight and five in the morning with a predictable spike around two in the morning when most bars close. Most of the collisions occur at highway intersections and turning left onto an exit ramp on the wrong side of the highway. Because of the time of night when most of these wrecks occur, our first responders are particularly at risk as they patrol the highways late at night, help disabled vehicles along the highways, and as they attempt to help those involved in wrecks on the highways.
The Devastating Impact of DUI
The consequences of these accidents are devastating. In Texas in 2021, 4,489 people died in car or truck wrecks, which was a 15.2% increase from 2020. Almost a quarter of those, 24%, were caused by drunk drivers. That is 1,077 of our friends, neighbors, and first responders who did not safely get home because someone chose to drive while under the influence. One of the reasons the McCraw Law Group sponsors a first responder scholarship every year is to recognize the job that first responders undertake to keep us safe at increased risk to their own safety.
Prevention and Holding Reckless Drivers Accountable
Mr. Cooner indicates that there are many countermeasures, like having red reflective lights on the roadways when driving the wrong direction and signs to warn when someone is driving the wrong direction, but that there are no countermeasures that are completely effective against drunk drivers. He is right, but both our civil and criminal jury system also does provide a deterrent. Holding those causing harm fully accountable for the harm they cause is an object lesson that can help reduce the problem and make us all just a little safer.