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California's wrong-way freeway crash problem

Since the beginning of the year, a specific kind of crash has been plaguing California’s busy freeways. These crashes are almost always preventable and are almost often tragic catastrophes. When drivers are intentionally or unintentionally forced to navigate wrong-way traffic in high-speed action movies, the event tends to be thrilling. When drivers are intentionally or unintentionally forced to navigate wrong-way traffic in real life, fatal collisions tend to result.

In one single community, four wrong-way freeway crashes have occurred in 2015 alone. This number may seem relatively small when compared to the number of crashes which occur on California freeways annually, but when one stops to consider that each crash has caused devastation and human loss, the number seems unbearably high.

Half of the wrong-way freeway crashes that have occurred in this single community this year have involved alcohol. In each case, the collisions occurred at night and involved at least one vehicle plowing head-on into at least one vehicle in its path. In each case, the driver navigating wrong-way traffic was alone in the car. In all, 14 deaths are attributed to these four crashes alone.

Drunkenness, distractedness, dementia and other factors can cause motorists to enter a freeway mistakenly on an off-ramp. However, it is unclear if these are the only factors in play.

It is uncertain why so many wrong-way crashes are occurring right now on Golden State freeways. What is certain is that these crashes tend to occur at high speeds and cost human lives. This is a problem that has no clear solution at this exact moment, but one that demands solutions as soon as they can be ascertained.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, “Wrong-way freeway crashes send state officials scrambling for answers,” Tony Bizjak and Bill Lindelof, May 12, 2015

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