NTSB: Alcohol and old age to blame for most wrong-way wrecks - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

NTSB: Alcohol and old age to blame for most wrong-way wrecks

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They're some of the most serious crashes on our nation's highways – accidents involving drivers going the wrong way. Last year four women were killed in a wrong-way crash on I-75 near Bowling Green. Three were sorority sisters from BGSU.

Our Washington Bureau has been reporting on ways to prevent these crashes since last spring, and now, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report of recommendations. 

Wrong way crashes are high speed – with high consequences. Terrifying, and usually head-on. Nearly a quarter of wrong-way driving crashes end in a fatality.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said,  "We want to try to prevent as many as possible."

This is the National Transportation Safety Board's first wrong-way driving report in 24 years. It looks at crashes in which drivers entered the highway through an exit ramp. 

Out of more than 1500 wrong-way crashes in a five year period -  936 wrong-way drivers were driving drunk. 

126 of the drivers involved who were going the right way – were also drunk.

Alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes were four times more likely to have a prior conviction for DWI than non-alcohol-impaired drivers. The NTSB is calling on the auto industry to install Driver Alcohol Detection Systems.

Hersman explained, "Vehicles that can sense if you're impaired by just putting your hands on the steering wheel, or through the air, they have sensors to determine through your breath whether or not you're impaired.  This would address this issue for everyone."

For the drivers who get caught driving drunk, the chairwoman wants all states to mandate ignition interlock devices.

The NTSB discovered factors other than just drunk driving – Older drivers are more likely to be involved in a wrong way crash and nearly 8 in 10 crashes happened between the hours of 6 p.m. .and 6 a.m.

The NTSB is targeting exit ramp signs to help older drivers and nighttime drivers.

Hersman said,  "Not just one wrong-way sign, but multiple wrong-way signs on a pole, they put them down lower, they have more of them, spaced at more frequent intervals."

Last year, we showed you how several car companies are installing technology that alerts drivers when another car is approaching.  But that's just one piece of the puzzle towards creating a better highway safety system.

According to Hersman,  "I really think it's important for all of us as drivers to be defensive, think about what's going on, be aware of other drivers on the road."

To read the NTSB's entire report on wrong-way driving, click on this link.

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