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A 70-year-old man on his way to work died when an SUV crossed the yellow line on a divided highway in a western suburb and drove directly into his path. It was one of 2,247 wrong-way crashes in 2021 in Illinois and a 13% increase over 2020, according to statistics from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).
Wrong-way crashes aren’t limited to the suburbs and the roadways downstate. The city of Chicago has sadly experienced many wrong-way crashes with the greatest number on Cicero Avenue, South Pulaski Road and Lake Shore Drive. As a result of these wrong-way collisions, 91 people died and 1,406 were injured in 2021. (Statistics for 2022 aren’t yet available.)
Wrong-way crashes are relatively rare but can be catastrophic mainly because they typically occur head-on and at high speeds, according to experts at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
In Illinois, an IDOT spokeswoman recently told the Daily Herald that the accidents are mostly a behavioral driving issue. She said about two out of three wrong-way occurrences involve an impaired driver who was under the influence or engaged in distracted driving like texting or checking their email.
Of note, the NTSB reports that 9 percent of wrong-way drivers had convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol in the three years before their offense. The NTSB and AAA recommend that state legislatures consider requiring ignition interlock devices for convicted offenders – a device that uses a breath sample to prove a driver is sober before they can start the engine.
In Connecticut, the impaired driver issue became more urgent when a state legislator was killed by a wrong-way driver. Among engineering counter-measures, the state incorporated as a result were more visible “Do Not Enter” signs and flashing lights that turn on if someone goes the wrong way onto highway ramps. Steel cable barriers can also serve as a deterrent.
What should you do if another driver is speeding head-on toward your vehicle? Experts advise against slamming on the brakes and suggest carefully moving to the right shoulder, then calling 911. And if you are the one who ends up traveling in the wrong direction? Pull to the right and stop. Then, try to turn around safely. If that’s not a possibility, call the police for help.
For those who are victims of a wrong-way driving accident, Illinois state laws may offer justice to both injured people and families of those who died. These may be based on negligence and wrongful death as well as liability for third parties.
It may surprise you to know that those who are responsible for blocking the view of street signs, such as failure to trim shrubbery or clear road hazards, may share legal responsibility for a wrong-way fatality. In drunk-driving wrong-way crashes, it’s even possible that bars and restaurants which serve alcoholic beverages may be legally responsible if a patron is injured or dies in a wrong-way accident.
If you or someone you care about has been harmed or died from an accident, our team of car accident lawyers in Chicago can answer your questions. We handle cases on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid anything unless we win. To learn more about how we can help you, call us at (312) 509-8900 or contact us using our online form.
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