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Wrong-way Wreck on I-85 Kills Charlotte Woman

From the Associated Press  — July 20, 2015

The N.C. Highway Patrol is investigating whether drinking was involved in a head-on accident on Interstate 85 in which three people, including a 6-year-old and a Charlotte woman, were killed.

The patrol said the driver of a Jeep was traveling the wrong way in the southbound lanes of the highway in Hillsborough about 3 a.m. Sunday when the accident occurred. The Jeep smashed into a passenger car with four occupants, three of whom were killed instantly.

The driver of the second car was identified as 49-year-old Felicia Harris of Charlotte. The names of the child and other passenger killed are not being released until relatives can be notified.

The driver of the Jeep was taken to UNC Hospital. Officials said his injuries were not life-threatening.

There was 1,566 wrong-way drivers in a recent multi-year Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data set. Of these accidents, 936 wrong-way drivers (60 percent) involved alcohol.

Wrong-Way Collisions

The majority of wrong-way drivers were between the ages of 20 and 50, with fewer wrong-way than right-way drivers in every 10-year age category below age 70. In the age categories above 70, however, the opposite was true. The number of wrong-way drivers greatly exceeded the number of right-way drivers — with almost 2 ½ times more wrong-way drivers for ages 70–79, and almost 35 times more for ages above 80.

Preventing Wrong-Way Collisions By Elderly Drivers

Following a 2000–2005 study of wrong-way collisions in North Carolina, the state’s Older Driver Working Group developed a strategy for advanced signage at interchanges.

Many other states have adopted innovative signage strategies for controlled-access highway interchanges to reduce wrong-way driving:

  • Lowering the height of “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs
  • Using oversized “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs
  • Mounting both “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs on the same post, paired on both sides of the exit travel lane
  • Implementing a standard wrong-way sign package with larger dimension signs and twice the usual number of signs
  • Illuminating “Wrong Way” signs that flash when a wrong-way vehicle is detected
  • Installing a second set of “Wrong Way” signs on the exit ramp farther upstream from the crossroad
  • Posting controlled-access highway entrance signs on each side of entrance ramps
  • Applying red retro-reflective tape to the vertical posts of exit ramp signs
  • Installing red delineators on each side of exit ramps
  • Installing LED-illuminated in-pavement markers or delineators parallel with the stop bar at the crossroad end of exit ramps
  • Installing trailblazing lines or reflective markers that channel travel in an arc to guide motorists making a left turn from the crossroad into an entrance ramp, to keep them from inadvertently entering an exit ramp

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