Although wrong-way crashes are infrequent, they are much more likely to be fatal than a typical accident. The combined impact of two vehicles colliding head on at highway speed is 130 to 140 mph. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says that there is an average of 360 people killed every year from wrong-way freeway crashes. At least 15 people were killed by wrong-way crashes in Kansas and Missouri in 2012.
These types of accidents generally occur at night or early in the morning by drivers that are impaired by drugs or alcohol. The impaired nature of the driver makes it even more difficult to get the wrong-way driver’s attention. States across the country have been testing various methods, with nothing standing out as a clear winner either due to cost, or because impaired drivers are simply too impaired to recognize a warning.
Since most offenders of this type of accident are impaired by alcohol, the NTSB has been recommending that courts mandate that all first offenders must use an ignition interlock to start their vehicles. This requires a sober driver to blow into a machine before the vehicle will start. Kansas already has this law, and Missouri is in the process of enacting it.
Another way to prevent these types of accidents from occurring in the future is to identify confusing exit ramps that drivers are consistently entering by mistake. The challenge, however, is identifying which exit ramps qualify for possible re-design, since many times the accident results in the death of the offending driver or involves a driver who is so intoxicated that they cannot say where they entered the highway.