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How Wrong Way Signs Save Lives

January 16, 2018

Everyone has seen “Wrong Way”signs all their lives. The message is so powerful that it instantly conjures up images of danger. Wrong way signs are effective because most people don’t want to be seen driving in the wrong direction since it’s risky, illegal and looks reckless. Not only can wrong way driving (WWD) lead to a serious and costly moving violation, it poses a life-threatening scenario for multiple drivers and passengers.

Sign Variations

  • “Wrong Way” with white letters and red background
  • “Wrong Way” top section, “Go Back” lower section
  • “Do Not Enter”
  • mirror image of “Wrong Way”

The “Do Not Enter” sign is usually represented by white letters on a red circular background encased in a white square. The signs that are split in two sections with “Wrong Way” at the top and “Go Back” at the bottom typically have white lettering over a red background on top with the inverse below it.

Reasons People Drive the Wrong Way

  • drunk driving
  • lost or confused driver in an unfamiliar area
  • obstructed view or reduced visibility of signs at night
  • lack of proper signage

Wrong Way Driving Facts

Nearly 300 individuals die and thousands more are injured every year from Wrong Way Driving accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Wrong Way signs were introduced in 1935 to warn drivers of lanes that only allow traffic in one direction. Since the advent of the interstate highway system in the 1950s, state highway planners have emphasized the importance of placing no entry signs in strategic places, such as at freeway exits. Officials have also tried to reduce Wrong Way Driving accidents by issuing strict penalties such as five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

While the problem of Wrong Way Driving is relatively rare compared with other types of accidents, it results in a high percentage of fatalities. Considering how freeway traffic typically moves at 55 mph, it should not come as a surprise that opposing traffic collisions have a high probability of causing injury or death. An NHTSA study showed that in the United States between 2004 and 2011 there were an average of 269 fatal Wrong Way Driving crashes per year, resulting in an average number of 359 associated casualties per year. A 2012 CalTrans report revealed that wrong way collisions caused .2% of all freeway crashes in California, yet 3% of traffic fatalities.

Each state has its own policies in addition to following federal safety standards on the type of signs that must be posted on roads and highways. In 2017 the Arizona Department of Transportation added Wrong Way signs along Interstate 17 off-ramps. These 8 x 5 feet signs were necessary for bridges and other situations. The state plans to install an electronic detection and alert system with thermal cameras to warn drivers about Wrong Way Driving. The signs are mounted above left lanes, as research has shown that drunk drivers are likely to use left lanes.

Most Wrong Way Driving collisions occur overnight, according to authorities as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune in a 2017 article about how wrong way crashes have led to changes on freeways. Government officials and sign makers are working on making signage more visible by using larger, more reflective signs set at lower levels. Studies show that impaired drivers do not look far ahead. Most Wrong Way signs are found on city streets, alleys, parking lots and roads without centerlines.

Community Safety

Protecting the community from dangerous drivers should be a top concern of any leader who has decision-making authority to install Wrong Way signs. These signs help keep traffic moving in the proper direction and prevent fatal accidents.

For more information or to get a Free Quote for the signs you need, contact Zumar.

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