AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Lone Star State leads the country in wrong-way deadly crashes, according to AAA Texas.
The agency found the number of people killed in these types of crashes is rising. Texas had more than 2,000 deadly wrong-way wrecks between 2015 and 2018. The report found drunk driving played a role in many of them.
The latest such wreck in Central Texas happened around 4 a.m. on March 3. A driver on State Highway 130 noticed bright headlights heading his way.
“You see headlights coming at you all the time on highways so it’s like not a big deal. It was just that, you know, it was bigger, brighter, approaching me a lot faster,” said the driver, who wished to remain anonymous.
He had to act quickly to avoid a crash.
“At that point, I started to speed up to make myself a little bit harder to hit,” he said. “I figured I could always just go into the ditch really quickly. If I thought, he might hit me. And if I just came to a complete stop then I would be an easy target.”
The man who captured this video on State Highway 130 dodged the wrong-way driver. Later that morning, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office reported the wrong-way driver wrecked near the Circuit of the Americas.
Melisa Finley with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute has been researching wrong-way drivers and the technology developed to stop them for the past decade. She believes as technology continues to develop, they will be able to target drivers inside their cars.
“Getting the information in the vehicle is key,” Finley said. “We do a lot of things on the side of the roadway [like warning signs] that we call infrastructure-based systems to try to mitigate wrong-way driving, but really the key is getting the warning inside the vehicle in order to alert the driver.”
In 2016, TxDOT and the Mobility Authority lowered the ‘wrong way’ and ‘do not enter’ signs from seven feet to three feet, putting them eye-level for drivers. They said this change in the design helps prevent crashes.
They did this at the exit ramps of I-35 from Riverside Drive to US 183, as well as 183A Toll and 290 Toll roads for a total of 149 lowered signs installed.
Most recently in 2019, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority installed driver detection technology that does just that on State Highway 45 Southwest. It alerts drivers using flashing lights or through their smart cars. Since being installed, 68 events of wrong-way driving have been recorded. Of those three drivers did not self-correct and law enforcement had to step in.
Those at the Mobility Authority said it is estimated that it would cost upward of $5 million to address key hot spots on their other highways.
The man who caught this wrong-way driver on camera is just glad he was able to drive away safely.
“The fact that I got out of it without any problems at all, you know, I didn’t have to put my car in a ditch,” he said. “It was all just I think it was a right situation of everything was just barely on edge and nothing really pushed it to the point where I was extremely stressed or scared about the situation.”