Skip to Content
Schedule a Consultation 309-673-0069
Schedule a Consultation 309-673-0069

Common Causes of Wrong-Way Accidents

Fri 14 Oct, 2022 / by / Car Accidents

A wrong-way accident is defined as an auto accident where a driver steers into the opposite travel direction, colliding with a vehicle that is traveling in the correct direction. This can happen if a driver inadvertently turns into a one-way road or accidentally enters a road going the wrong way. The resulting damage can be devastating, ranging anywhere from significant property damage to loss of life. Here are some of the common reasons that wrong-way accidents occur.

Being Under the Influence

The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) estimates that half of wrong-way accidents are due to drivers being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even a small amount of alcohol can impact a driver’s awareness and dramatically raise his likelihood of being involved in an accident. However, in many of the cases of wrong-way accidents, the driver had an extremely high blood alcohol count, generally twice the legal limit. 


Distractions can range from picking up a cell phone to respond to a text message or turning around to speak to a passenger. Any distraction can lead a driver to make a poor decision. Distracted drivers are more likely to enter the road incorrectly. They are also less likely to recognize that they have entered the wrong way for a bit, which can raise the likelihood of having an accident.

Advanced Age 

While there are plenty of good older drivers, it is true that elderly drivers cause a fair amount of accidents, including wrong-way accidents. This can result from physical limitations that prevent them from avoiding a mistake or the inability to recognize the danger due to a medical condition like vision problems. They also may be more likely to suffer injuries resulting from a crash given their physical condition.

Bad Weather Conditions 

Rain, fog, or snow can prevent drivers from seeing signs that indicate detours. It can also interfere with a driver’s ability to steer into the correct lane if there is a detour, as detours can sometimes arise quickly and unexpectedly. Those same bad weather conditions will also affect drivers traveling in the correct direction down the road, preventing them from avoiding an accident.  

Lack of Road Lighting  

Dark roads, combined with an unexpected detour, can cause problems for drivers. Even if there are signs indicating that there is a detour, the lack of lighting can prevent drivers from being notified that there is a detour. Highly visible and well-lit alternative routes can help drivers avoid crashes.

Poor Road Design 

Sometimes, roads are designed in a way that can cause problems for drivers. For example, highways are sometimes designed in a cloverleaf or partial cloverleaf design. This can cause a problem for drivers having a collision if the entrance and exit ramps are parallel. Also, if highway exits are right at intersections, this can confuse drivers. Drivers may inadvertently turn too soon and go in the path of opposing traffic rather than on the correct side. 

Inadequate Signage 

Drivers can sometimes enter the road from the wrong way if they do not see signs that keep them from making a mistake. If a highway ramp is poorly marked, a driver may accidentally enter the highway in the wrong direction. Not having a “Do Not Enter” sign can also cause drivers to enter a road from the opposite direction. Having signs is very important for drivers because, without them, a driver may only become aware that they are driving in the wrong direction when they see vehicles driving toward them. By then, it may be too late. If at all possible, signs indicating a detour should be brightly colored or use flashing lights to provide extra notification to drivers. 


Speeding is a major cause of many car accidents. Driving too quickly, a driver may be unaware of how to safely enter a roadway and can accidentally end up on the wrong side of the road. This can also raise the risk of a bad outcome in a wrong-way accident, as fatalities are more likely in the event that a driver is traveling at a high rate of speed. 


When there is road construction, there are often detours. Some of these detours include using parallel lanes for opposite-direction traffic. If a driver who is familiar with the area does not pay attention to the detour sign, he could accidentally enter the wrong way. Even drivers unfamiliar with the area could misread the detour signs and end up in the wrong lane.

Unfamiliarity with Area  

Not being familiar with the area can cause a driver to accidentally turn onto the road the wrong way. This can be the case in cities where roads switch from two-way roads to one-way roads, common in older cities. If one drives there often, this will be evident, but someone visiting may be unaware. Additionally, drivers from rural areas may make mistakes getting onto highway ramps.

Faulty Automobile Equipment  

Some accidents, including wrong-way accidents, are simply caused by faulty equipment. If a driver’s tire pops, or if the driver is suddenly unable to steer, they may have no choice but to drive down the wrong way of a road. If the equipment is at fault, the car manufacturer or designer of the equipment could be held liable for the accident.

Results of Wrong-Way Accidents

Wrong-way accidents are likely to be more serious than other car accidents (or even fatal), according to the NTSB. Sadly, death occurs as a result of one out of every five wrong-way accidents. This is especially the case if the accident occurs at a high rate of speed, where two vehicles are crashing into each other head-on. Drivers who are fortunate enough to survive these accidents can still sustain lifelong, costly, and painful injuries. These injuries can include broken bones, internal injuries, spinal cord injuries, and head and neck injuries.

Get the Help You Need From a Knowledgeable Car Accident Attorney 

Any car accident is serious, but wrong-way accidents can cause major injuries and have complex recovery cases. Anyone involved in a wrong-way accident should not hesitate to contact an experienced wrong-way traffic accident attorney.  Reach out today.