Hundreds of Wrong-Way Drivers on Nevada Roads

wrong way warning road sign
One-way and wrong-way road signs

Wrong-way drivers are a deadly threat for motorists in Southern Nevada. When drivers travel down the wrong side of the road, they turn their vehicles into fast-moving missiles that can cause injury or death in the blink of an eye. This past year, the Nevada Highway Patrol responded to over 400 wrong-way drivers in Southern Nevada.

Going Down the Road the Wrong-Way 

In 2019, the Nevada Highway Patrol responded to 434 reports of drivers traveling the wrong way down roads in Southern Nevada. This was down from 443 reports in 2018. On average there is more than one call per day of a driver going the wrong way down I-15 and other highways. In Northern Nevada, there were 192 reports of wrong-way drivers in 2019 which was an increase from 157 reports in 2018. In the last month of 2019, wrong-way drivers caused four fatalities and multiple injuries in the state. According to the Nevada Highway Patrol, it took just one hour to receive the first call about a wrong-way driver in 2020.

Nationwide, approximately 355 people die in wrong-way crashes each year. Wrong-way driving accidents are more likely to cause a fatality than other types of wrecks. This is due in part to the high speeds that are typically involved and the force of impact that’s generated in a head-on accident. The fatality rate for wrong-way driving crashes is 1.34 as opposed to 1.1 for all other crashes. 

Causes of Wrong-Way Driving

Common causes of wrong-way driving include drivers who operate their motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, improper signage, poor visibility, impaired vision, unfamiliarity with the road, and age-related cognitive decline. The prevalence of wrong-way crashes and the increasing dangers they pose prompted the National Wrong-Way Driving Summit in 2013. The Summit determined that the best way to prevent wrong-way crashes was through the application of the “4E’s.”

The 4E’s of Preventing Wrong-Way Crashes are:

  • Engineering. It is incumbent upon city managers, property owners, and state agencies responsible for road construction to design and build roads, on-ramps, and off-ramps that discourage the entrance of vehicles traveling the wrong way. Engineering also includes the inclusion of signs that warn drivers they are traveling the wrong direction. In Nevada, many sites in and around Las Vegas now feature “wrong way” signs with red flashing strobe lights to warn drivers they are going the wrong way. This is especially important in the area as many wrong-way crashes in and around the city are caused by out-of-town drivers who are unfamiliar with local roadways. 
  • Education. Drivers must be made aware of the risks of wrong-way accidents and instructed in the proper methods for entering and exiting the roadway.
  • Enforcement. Law enforcement has a duty to the public to rigorously monitor highways and other public roads for drivers traveling the wrong way. Law enforcement officers need to enhance patrols and presence around known trouble spots. In some states, law enforcement agencies have installed wrong-way detection monitors on highways and other roads. These detect wrong-way drivers and send an immediate alert to law enforcement officers which expedites their response time and often allows them to “catch” the driver before a crash occurs.
  • Emergency Response. Fast response is essential for saving lives. Law enforcement must respond promptly to reports of wrong-way drivers, and when accidents occur, paramedics, firefighters, and other emergency responders must respond in the fastest manner possible for conditions.

Penalties for Wrong-Way Driving in Nevada

Traveling the wrong-way down any road is a serious moving violation in Nevada. Drivers who commit this offense can be charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and upon conviction may be required to pay fines or serve time in jail. If the incident caused a fatality or involved drugs or alcohol, these penalties can be significant. Las Vegas car accident attorneys can also help victims pursue wrong-way drivers in civil lawsuits to recover compensation for the property damage, personal injuries, and wrongful deaths their negligent actions cause.

Reducing the Risks of Wrong-Way Crashes

Drivers can reduce their risk of getting into a wrong-way crash by remaining mindful of their surroundings and traffic on the roadway. Making sure they drive with their headlights on and staying in the righthand lane can also help since many wrong-way crashes occur in the left lane. Avoiding distractions that can take their attention away from the road and the signs posted to keep them going the right way, and paying particular attention when entering parking lots, residential streets, and when entering or exiting the highway can also help motorists avoid wrong-way accidents.