The tragically fatal wrong-way head on crash last Wednesday night on the J.R. Allen expressway fits almost every statistic safety experts keep on wrong way crashes.
The National Transportation Safety Board says there are roughly 300 wrong-way crashes per year in the country with about 360 fatalities.
They make up just three percent of accidents on divided highways, but wrong way crashes are 25 percent more likely to result in fatalities than other types of accidents.
Another statistic that can't be ignored is age: almost 20-percent of wrong way crashes involve drivers over the age of 70. When a driver reaches 80, the chances of a wrong way crash happening doubles, and like the accident on the J.R. Allen, 78 percent of wrong way crashes happen at night.
Alcohol is always a factor, but not all wrong way crashes are caused by drunk drivers. Poor signage is often a bigger factor. The familiar "wrong way" signs posted at exit ramps are meant to give the earliest possible warning to drivers.
The NTSB has been studying whether much larger and lighted signs would perform better and the obvious answer is yes. Another NTSB recommendation is for states to post multiple signs along the wrong way path so drivers have extra chances to realize their mistake before it's too late.
With all the distractions on the road these days, it just makes sense for the state to look twice at the "wrong way" signage at every exit ramp.
The signs need to be large enough and numerous enough to provide a strong and clear message to any confused driver that they are headed for disaster.
General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to WTVM Editorial Committee or write to:
WTVM Editorial Committee
1909 Wynnton Road
Columbus, GA 31906
Copyright 2014 WTVM. All rights reserved.