Last night, two people were killed in a collision when a driver was driving down Mopac the wrong way.
Just before 1:00 a.m., APD received calls of a driver driving southbound in the northbound lanes of Mopac. The APD dispatched several police cars and even a police helicopter to try and intervene, but they couldn’t get there fast enough. The driver of the wrong-way car, reportedly a 26 year old woman, collided head on with another vehicle near Duval Road. The driver of the wrong-way car was pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver, Robert Murphy, was taken to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center, where he later passed away.
It seems like these types of wrecks — where someone is driving down a highway the wrong way — should never happen.
But they’re a lot more frequent than we’d like to think. I’ve been writing about wrong way wrecks in Austin for at least the last four years. And in 2010, Austin had two wrong way car wreck fatalities within a couple of weeks of one another.
Sergeant Darrell Burnham, one of the officers working the scene of this morning’s crash, said he can think of three incidents on Mopac that occurred fairly recently.
Most of these wrecks have several characteristics in common:
- Most occur at night (today’s occurred at 1:00 a.m.);
- Most of the wrong way drivers are either impaired by alcohol or drugs or, to a lesser extent, are elderly drivers (alcohol is suspected in today’s wreck); and
- Many occur on roadways with confusing entrance/exit designs.
These wrong way wrecks are particularly problematic for several reasons. They often involve fatal or serious injuries. Due to the nature of the wreck, most of these are head-on collisions, which bring a tremendous amount of force.
They are also hard to avoid. When an innocent victim is traveling in the proper direction, they are usually at the mercy of the wrong way driver. And since statistics show that wrong way drivers are often impaired, making it hard for a person traveling the proper direction to really anticipate the wrong way driver’s next move.
Finally, these wrecks are going to become an increasing problem. They often occur on highways that have confusing entrance and exit ramps. As Austin grows, we have more and more large highway intersections that are potentially confusing and offer opportunities for wrong way drivers to enter roads the wrong way.
For more information on wrong way drivers, you can read some of my prior posts on the problem:
- Wrong Way Drivers Causing Too Many Fatalities
- Wrong Way I35 Driver Kills A San Antonio Area Police Officer
- Another Wrong Way Driver Wreck In Dallas
- Another Austin Wrong-Way Driver Death
- More On Wrong Way Drivers
- Another Wrong Way Driver Death In Austin
- Wrong Way Driver In Austin
- Is The Dallas North Tollway Doing Enough To Stop Wrong Way Drivers?
- Wrong Way Drivers Are Causing A Rash of Fatalities In Dallas and Austin
- What Can Be Done To Protect Dallas Motorists From Wrong Way Drivers?
You can also read the Texas Transportation Institute’s worksheet: Wrong Way Driving on Freeways in Texas: Problems, Issues & Countermeasures.