In a fatal crash on Highway 99/Grand Parkway early yesterday morning, the driver of a pickup truck that was driving northbound in the southbound lanes of that freeway very early Tuesday morning, according to police officials in Fort Bend County. The crash happened near West Bellport.
According to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office, the wrong-way driver had been driving that way for more than 10 miles. They even set up spike strips and prevented many cars from even getting on the freeway for a time, although it was apparently too late for that. Sheriff’s Deputies estimated the pickup was traveling at speeds between 90 and 100 mph when it slammed into a small Chevrolet Sedan, head-on. When the crash occurred, the front of the sedan was crushed by the impact of the crash and the pickup was flipped onto its side. The driver of the sedan was killed at the scene, while the wrong-way driver of the pickup was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he remains in critical condition for now.
As the cleanup continued, the southbound lanes of the Grand Parkway remained closed for hours. Texas DPS is conducting the accident investigation, including why the pickup’s driver started driving the wrong way in the first place.
The Danger of Wrong-Way Driving
For drivers on any road, there is perhaps no scenario more terrifying than the prospect of a wrong-way driver coming your way. Whether they ate driving a small car, they are driving against the flow of traffic, usually at a high rate of speed. In most cases, wrong-way drivers usually end up causing head-on crashes, which are the worst and most destructive car accident. It is important to remember that, when two cars slam into each other at 70 mph, the impact of the crash will be at least 140 mph. That is why it is rare for a head-on collision to not end with a serious injury or a fatality. In most cases, head-on collisions result in injuries that lead to life-changing experiences that can haunt the injured party for life.
Texas Leads the Nation in Going the Wrong Way
Over the past decade or so, nearly 4,000 people nationwide have been killed in wrong-way accidents. Unfortunately, it is the state of Texas who leads the other 49 states in the number of wrong-way driver accidents. In fact, the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex, Austin and even our home in San Antonio are ranked among the worst in Texas, as they are the areas where most wrong-way accidents have occurred.
San Antonio Leads Texas in Trying to Solve the Problem
While there are too many wrong-way accidents in San Antonio, there is some good news in the San Antonio Wrong-Way Driver Task Force (WWD). The Task Force was established based on an acknowledged need for a solution on Texas roads. Since 2011, the discussions of the issue have been held in a large number of for a and they have included a number of agencies.
The Task Force has been using a lot of prior research into the wrong way driver phenomenon, including a lot of the broad fundamental research on contributing factors, such as driving under the influence of alcohol and narcotics. They also investigated some countermeasure testing that was conducted by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) back in the mid-1960s, including some information regarding the use of spike strips on exit ramps and many other countermeasures for wrong-way driving.
The Texas Department of Transportation, along with the San Antonio Wrong-Way Driver Task Force, have been testing a number of potential solutions over the past decade or so. That is why, for example, motion-activated signs have been installed at dozens of locations throughout the state. These signs light up when drivers enter an off-ramp and begin to drive the wrong way on a highway. They did so because they found that most wrong-way accidents happen on highways at night, when drivers may be less able to clearly realize they’re entering a highway the wrong way.
Wrong Time, Wrong Place
The key question to finding solutions to wrong-way driving comes with the question, “why do so many people find themselves going the wrong way on our highways? Most wrong-way drivers seem to be under the influence, but some of them are merely confused. In many cases, it is merely a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We know this because 80% of the wrong-way crashes in San Antonio and Bexar County have occurred between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
There may someday be a solution to this problem, but for now, accidents involving wrong-way drivers should be treated as road hazards that everyone must look out for when we drive somewhere. Being focused on driving is a very important part of that.