A recent collision on Business 80 in Sacramento was only the latest in a rash of California highway wrong-way driver crashes — some of them deadly — that have occurred in recent months. Fortunately, this incident only resulted in “moderate” injuries to the wrong-way driver himself. The driver of the big rig that he hit was not injured. Unfortunately, this was not the case in a wrong-way crash in Long Beach that killed one driver and critically injured two other people. Nor was it the case in a May collision on Interstate 80 in Sacramento that killed three people, a May crash on Highway 50 in Sacramento that killed four, or a January collision on Interstate 80 in Sacramento that killed three people.
A common factor in many wrong-way crashes is alcohol use. The drivers in these incidents are frequently confused by highway on-ramps and off-ramps, entering against traffic on the off-ramps. They are then frequently found to be driving against traffic in the left-hand fast lanes, thinking instead that they are “safely” driving in the correct direction in the right-hand slow lanes. These accidents are most common at night, and the sudden appearance of the wrong-way driver in front of the right-way drivers — with combined closing speeds well over 100 mph — leaves other drivers with very, very little time to react. The high combined closing speed also adds to the severity of the impacts that result.
Studies have also found that a large percentage of wrong-way highway collisions occur from intentional, illegal U-turns, and that the peak time of day for wrong-way collisions in California is between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. — not coincidentally, the hour immediately after bars are required to close.