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Wrong-way drivers: Escaping a disastrous encounter

In the movies, a car speeding the wrong direction down the highway is often played for laughs. In real life, it's terrifying. It also probably happens more often than you realize.

There are as many as 400 of these types of driving accidents on the highway every year -- and most of them involve fatalities. Even at 40 miles per hour, a highway accident is likely to result in death.

Wrong-way drivers end up misdirected on highways for a number of reasons. Often, alcohol and drugs are involved. Other drivers simply get confused. Young drivers who are particularly inexperienced can get confused by detours and badly-placed signs. Older drivers with the early symptoms of dementia or vision problems may get confused at night and end up confusing on-ramps and off-ramps.

Some states, like Florida, are trying systems that give wrong-way drivers major warning signals and send early alerts to the authorities so that they can quickly mobilize and try to avert a disaster. Most states, however, are still at a loss about how to deal with the issue.

That's why it's necessary to drive defensively. Here are the best things you can do to protect yourself from a wrong-way driver:

1. Be especially cautious and watch for misdirected drivers on weekends and particularly after dark falls. There's a lot of alcohol flowing on the weekends. Night is also when drivers can get the most easily confused trying to get on and off the highway.

2. If you see a driver heading your direction, move into the far right lane as fast as possible. Since the misdirected driver thinks he or she is heading the right direction, they'll usually stay on the left -- which is their right. This is particularly true of drivers who are inebriated and trying to avoid police attention.

3. If you can't get out of the misdirected driver's way, try to turn your car out of the other car's direct path. This is your best chance of avoiding an accident or, at least, preventing a head-on collision.

4. Call for help. As soon as the danger to you has passed, call 911 and tell the police everything you can that might help them stop the misdirected driver.

Remember -- you're trying to mitigate the possibility of a serious car accident. Don't try to alert the Louisiana authorities until after you're safe.

Source: Inside Edition, "What to Do If a Wrong-Way Driver Is Coming Your Way to Avoid a Disastrous Collision," accessed April 26, 2018

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