Avoiding Head-On Collisions
by Scott Blumenshine
Every year, people lose their lives in head-on collisions on Illinois roads. Just recently, a young 17-year old was killed when he collided head-on with a full-size pick-up truck. The truck driver was seriously injured. A couple of weeks ago, a 55-year-old Canton, Illinois, woman was killed when she lost control of her car and ran head-on into a semi-truck. Earlier this year, a young Joliet man pulled into the oncoming lane to pass a car driven by his cousin. Instead, the young man ran head on into another car, killing himself and the other driver as the cousin watched.
In 2014, the most recent year for state statistics, 924 people were killed in vehicle crashes on Illinois roads with 100 of those people having died in head-on collisions. This is consistent with national statistics. Approximately 10 percent of all traffic accident fatalities are attributable to head-on collisions even though only 2 percent of vehicle accidents are head-on collisions.
Head-on collisions are the most serious type of vehicle accident there can be. Victims, if they live, often suffer extremely severe injuries. Some are permanently maimed and disfigured. In order to avoid causing a head-on collision, it is important to understand the main causes of such an accident.
Main Causes of Head-On Collisions
The main causes of head-on collisions are:
- Drunk driving: Drunk driving causes approximately 60 percent of all wrong-way crashes. The driver’s reflexes and judgment are impaired as are the ability to calculate distance.
- Drowsy driving: Long-haul truck drivers and night shift workers are often overwhelmed with drowsiness when driving, but drowsy driving can affect anyone. A person may be tired at the end of the work day, coming home from a party or someone who is just generally sleep-deprived. Reflexes are diminished and the drowsy driver may simply fall asleep at the wheel. Some studies show that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.
- Distracted driving: A distracted driver is highly likely to veer into the oncoming lane. It doesn’t take long for that to happen. Examples of distracted driving are texting, talking on a cell phone, fiddling with the radio dial or rear-view mirror, putting on make-up, eating and the list goes on.
- Wrong way drivers: Drivers may become disoriented and drive on to a highway using the off-ramp instead of the on-ramp. They turn the wrong way on a one-way street. This is more often found in elderly drivers over the age of 70, who are the cause of 15 percent of all head-on collisions.
- Hazardous road conditions: Potholes, road debris, bad lighting, lack of dividing lines and other road problems can cause a driver to veer out of the correct line into the path of oncoming traffic.
What to do if a Car is Coming Your Way in Your Lane
If you see a vehicle coming toward you in your lane, you do not have much time to act in order to prevent a devastating head-on collision. The Safe America Foundation has published defensive driving tactics that may help you get out of the way of a vehicle speeding toward you in your lane.
- Swerve to the right. Unless there is a horrendous drop-off, you are better off driving off the road than being hit head-on by an oncoming vehicle.
- Always look ahead. If you look more than a couple of hundred feet ahead of you, it is likely you can see the danger coming while there is still time to act.
- Flash your lights. The driver driving toward you is likely drowsy, drunk or disoriented. If you have time to flash your lights a few times, it may be enough to get the driver’s attention and send him or her back into the proper lane.
- Check the reflectors. Be sure you are not the one going the wrong way. If you find you are looking at red reflectors, you are the one going the wrong way and need to get back into your own lane.
- Call 911. If you avoid the oncoming danger, pull over as soon as possible. Call 911 and report what happened. Give as much of a description as possible. Report what kind of vehicle it was, the color, exact location of where you are and what direction the faulty driving was traveling.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed in a head-on collision, contact our Chicago personal injury lawyers at Meyer and Blumenshine for a free consultation.