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AAA: State heads wrong way in “wrong-way” crashes

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Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 11:10 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - New data finds North Carolina has reported an increase in wrong-way crash deaths in recent years.

The latest data analysis from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found the average number of deaths from wrong-way crashes on divided highways in the state from 2015 to 1028 was 75% higher than the previous five years.

Nationwide, there has been a 32% increase, less than half of North Carolina’s cases.

“Wrong-way crashes on divided highways are often fatal as they are typically head-on collisions. And unfortunately, as the data shows, fatalities from these crashes are on the rise.”

Dr. David Yang, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Executive Director

Earlier this month, a woman was killed and a Greenville police officer was seriously injured in a wrong-way crash on U.S. 264 in Pitt County.

The crash happened around 8:45 p.m. on U.S. 264 just inside the Pitt-Beaufort county line.
The crash happened around 8:45 p.m. on U.S. 264 just inside the Pitt-Beaufort county line.(Viewer photo)

Researchers said the odds of being a wrong-way driver increased with alcohol impairment, older age and driving without a passenger. Those factors were among eight examined.

Data found, six in 10 wrong-way crashes involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Drivers with blood alcohol concentrations over the legal limit were significantly more likely to be wrong-way drivers than non-alcohol-impaired drivers involved in the same crashes.

North Carolina Department of Transportation said there were 164 deaths from 2000 to 2017 due to wrong-way crashes, and alcohol and/or drugs were involved in nearly half of all the crashes.

Of the 129 wrong-way crashes from 2000 to 2013, 68 of the involved alcohol.

Interventions like ignition interlock devices used to prevent drivers from driving without a breath sample of no more than a BAC of 0.02, can help reduce these crash types, according to experts.

“If you notice a motorist driving the wrong-way, be vigilant and move to the right shoulder – be sure to avoid slamming on brakes or abruptly swerving. Once out of harm’s way, call 911 to report the situation.”

Tiffany Wright, AAA – The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas Public Affairs Director

The AAA data also found older drivers aged 75-79 spent less time on the road, but were over-represented in wrong-way crashes.

Data also reported, a passenger’s presence may offer some protection against being a wrong-way driver, as nearly 87% of wrong-way drivers were alone.

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