Wrong-way crashes 100 times more likely to be fatal

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Commonly known as “wrong-way drivers” are known as “lethal drivers” to law enforcement.

While wrong-way crashes only 3 percent of all divided highway crashes, those crashes are 100 times more likely to turn fatal. An unfortunate fact that’s been brought to the public’s eye twice in recent weeks here in the Miami Valley.

A 911 call to police on Feb. 13 in the Miami Valley is a haunting reality.

“Looks like a head-on collision.” “Is anyone injured?” “I took the pulse on one guy and didn’t feel anything.”

Early that morning, a man driving the wrong way on Interstate 75 in Dayton slammed head-on into an SUV. He was killed, as were four others; all of them in their 20’s, including three members of local hard rock band.

“I’m just passing Stewart Road on 71 going Northbound. There’s somebody in the fast lane going Southbound.”

Just four days later, a wrong way driver on I-71 in Cincinnati also hit an oncoming car. This time, the wrong way driver survived, but the other man, simply driving home from work, was killed.

To learn how police respond to these calls and what the rest of us should do, 2 NEWS’ Mark Allan hit the road with deputy Tony Ball, the traffic crash reconstructionist for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

He says most wrong-way drivers are impaired by drugs or alcohol and certain days and times are of higher risk.

“It seems Saturdays, Sundays and Fridays are the most common days of the week for these crashes. Mostly when its dark outside and when you look further frequency goes up drastically at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. and that correlates with the closing of liquor establishments,” Ball said.

So when those 911 calls start coming in, the National Sheriffs’ Association and most law enforcement agencies, prohibit their officers from chasing a wrong-way driver, but they do have to get their attention.

So the basic rule of thumb is: ‘Is what I’m about to do going to make the situation better or worse?’

“Obviously, we can try to block entrance ramps we can deploy officers to slow traffic,” Ball said. “I guess my fear is in trying to let people know especially from the lawful side of the roadway; are we going to distract those folks and they’re not gonna see the wrong way driver that’s what worries me.”

So what should the other drivers do?

Ball says be heads up, especially during those high-risk days and times, and remember, that a wrong way drunk driver coming at you, will likely stay to your left, or his right, hoping not to get pulled over for OVI.

“The suggestion would be that you slow and move to the right shoulder and call 911 once that wrong-way driver has passed you,” he said.

Below is a video from the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s media relations department on a previous wrong-way driver stop in 2012.

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