Wrong-Way Driver Causes Death; Southern Utahns Struggle To Cope
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, someone (we don't know their name yet), chose to get on the freeway heading south from Anderson Junction (Exit 27).
The problem? This person chose to get on the northbound side of the freeway to travel south toward St. George.
Astonishingly, this wrong-way driver managed to not get in an accident for a full five miles. But eventually luck ran out and the car headed the wrong way at freeway speed hit an innocent driver going the proper direction on the freeway.
The result was catastrophic. Both drivers were killed instantly.
Obviously the wrong-way driver is to blame for this tragedy. But why did this person get onto the freeway going the wrong way?
Some people on social media want to blame the freeway engineers.
"I have never seen a state with so many wrong way crashes. 30 years living near one of the busiest interstates in the country and I never saw a wrong way crash. I think UDOT may want to look at ramp signage in other states. I know where I came from if you looked in your rear view mirror getting off the ramp, you knew if you were going the other way, you were going the wrong way. Those huge do not enter signs in multiple spots on the off ramps were very noticeable along with huge one way arrow signs on the ramps and at the end of the ramp," said one commentor.
Another: "There has to be a way to stop these people from entering from the wrong way. My suggestion would be to put in spike strips that would pop their tires therefore not allowing them to enter. Sounds harsh, but I would rather see them have to replace tires rather than take innocent lives." Also, see this link for why spike strips aren't used.
And one more: "So predictable. The State of Utah should hang their head in shame on this one. The lack of reflectorized signage, reflectorized road markings, overhead street lighting, and poor highway design all contributed to this horrible wreck. That area is so dark at night you can't see your hand in front of your face. The total lack of concern and planning on the part of UDOT is just plain sinful."
But others have come to the defense of the roadmakers.
"Unfortunately changing the roadways won't stop people from driving under the influence." (Note: the driver of the wrong-way crash has not been accused of impaired driving. The investigation will reveal more).
Another: "No matter what the exit looks and built like you still drive on the same side of the road just like a road in town. And if you are coherent you would know if you were going south north west east."
And another: 'A little research on the subject would show it's on the rise nationwide with Texas and Florida leading with the most wrong way crashes."
To back up that last comment, information from the 2010s tells us that Utah had only 3.3 deaths per year (with 30 crashes) during that time from wrong-way crashes. In contrast, Texas had 67.7 deaths per year with 446 wrong-way crashes and Florida had 34.4 DPY with 226 crashes.
Interestingly, the AAA Foundation said its research showed the odds of being a wrong-way driver increased with 1. alcohol impairment; 2. older age, and 3. driving without a passenger.
All three factors may have been present in Sunday's crash.
We will know soon enough who was involved and perhaps even why. But one thing is already abundantly clear: the whole accident is incredibly tragic.
"This is terrible news. Much love to the victim’s families," and "Heart wrenching -- love and prayers to the family and friends so very sorry for your loss."
And finally this: "Praying for both families and for the 1st responders who will never forget this "just terrible" scene."