Q: Is it time to write again about wrong-way drivers causing accidents, many with fatalities? There seem to be so many lately, including one accident in San Jose, and four accidents in San Diego County last week that killed five people.
Mrs. Roadshow, San Jose
A: Sadly, it is time for a reminder. One person died and three others were hospitalized Sunday after a crash involving a wrong-way driver on Highway 101 near Montague Expressway around 4:30 a.m. The driver of a Corolla was headed the wrong way and died in the crash, the CHP said. Three people were injured.
Last week, a driver traveling north on Interstate 5 against traffic in San Diego crashed into a Ford sedan occupied by a husband and wife who were both off-duty police officers. All three were killed.
More than 48 persons are killed in these crashes every year now in California. That’s a stunning 64% increase since 2010. The AAA says the single most significant factor in 60% of wrong-way accidents is an alcohol-impaired driver.
Caltrans is installing extra warning signs, as well as sensors at some off-ramps to alert the CHP when someone entered a freeway is going the wrong direction. Over the next few years, we’ll see 2½ million red warning reflector dots on state roads in an effort to stem the tragedies that occur when someone is going the wrong way. That means red reflectors every 48 feet. Caltrans now places a single row of red reflectors every half mile on freeways.
Many wrong-way drivers move into the right lane because, driving impaired, they don’t want to get pulled over for speeding, and think they are driving in the slow lane. But because they are driving the wrong way, they are in the fast lane. As a result, it is much safer to travel in the middle lanes of the freeway at night, because there is more room to maneuver if a wrong-way driver is coming toward you.
Q: I was driving to San Luis Obispo in my Tesla on auto pilot at 75 mph in a segment where the speed limit is 70. There was a red Tesla in front of me that suddenly swerved into the right lane and I saw a silver sedan heading towards me. I swerved into the right lane to avoid a head-on collision. It was a narrow miss.
Had I not reacted, would the Tesla detect and avoid a crash? It’s scary to think about what could have happened.
A: At that speed, it probably would not have avoided the crash. For the most part, autopilot works well at speeds under 30 mph.
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Author: Gary Richards