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Michigan Wrong Way Driver Accident: Who Is Liable?

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Who Is Liable For A Wrong Way Driver Accident In Michigan? Who Is Liable For A Wrong Way Driver Accident In Michigan?
Michigan Wrong Way Driver Accident: Who Is Liable? 3

In Michigan, if you’ve been injured in a car accident that involved a wrong way driver, then you likely will be able to sue the driver for compensation. Driving in the wrong direction is a violation of both the “designated direction” and “reasonable care” driving safety laws. These types of car accidents are most often seen with drivers who are under the influence of alcohol.

Research shows that 60% of wrong way driving crashes involve drivers who are intoxicated. Drunk drivers are more than 18 times more likely to cause a wrong-way crash.

These head-on crashes are also often much more serious.  Because driving into oncoming traffic so frequently results in severe and fatal collisions, transportation departments, road commissions and cities are stepping up their preventative efforts with strategies such as putting flashing lights on “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs and using cameras and sensors to notify police in real time that a wrong direction crash may be imminent.

What is a wrong way driver accident?

In Michigan, a wrong way accident occurs when a driver travels in the wrong direction on a highway, freeway or roadway and collides with a vehicle traveling in the legally designated direction. Quite simply, a wrong direction crash is defined as driving against the legal flow of traffic and into oncoming traffic.

These accidents typically involve drivers entering exit ramps, one-way streets, or other lanes in the wrong direction.

How common are wrong way driver accidents in Michigan?

There were 407 wrong way driver accidents in Michigan in 2022 and 10 of them were fatal crashes, according to the most up-to-date statistics available from the Michigan State Police’s Traffic Crash Reporting System. Seven of the 421 crashes in 2021 were fatal. And 10 of the 371 accidents in 2020 were fatal.

The most current data available from the Federal Highway Administration shows that there were 507 wrong way driving fatalities in 2020, 502 in 2019, 445 in 2018, 455 in 2017 and 451 in 2016.

Common causes

  • Drunk driving
  • Drugged driving
  • Driver distractions
  • Driver confusion
  • Unfamiliarity with the area
  • Lack of proper signage
  • Bad road design
  • Bad on-ramp design
  • Inadequately marked ramps
  • Poor visibility
  • Insufficient lighting

How often does a drunk driver cause a wrong way crash?

More than 60% of the drivers in wrong way accidents have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.08 or higher, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Significantly, a driver’s chances of causing a wrong way driving accident are more than 18 times higher if the driver’s BAC is 0.08 or above.

Who is liable for a wrong way driver accident in Michigan?

In Michigan, the driver who causes a wrong way accident will be liable to all injury victims. It is unlawful to drive opposite the lawfully designated direction. The owner of the vehicle being driven in the wrong direction vehicle may also be liable under the owner liability law. (MCL 257.641(2)) and (MCL 257.401(1))

Depending on the circumstances, the Michigan Department of Transportation, a local road commission, or a city may be liable for the wrong way driver accident if they were negligent in how they selected and located signage to warn and prevent people from entering a freeway or highway going in the wrong direction.

Lastly, if a wrong way driver accident occurs because the “Wrong Way” signage has been removed, then the individuals – assuming they can be identified – may be liable for the injuries and harms caused by their actions.

Can I sue a wrong way driver after an accident in Michigan?

In Michigan, you can sue a wrong way driver for your car accident related injuries and those of a loved one. You will establish the driver was negligent by showing that he or she violated the traffic laws or failed to drive as a reasonably careful driver would under the circumstances. Many wrong direction drivers have BACs over the legal limit.

The evidence showing that the driver of a vehicle going in wrong way was negligent and at- fault for causing the accident in Michigan is generally pretty strong. For instance, by virtue of the fact that they were driving into oncoming traffic and in the opposite direction of the lawful traffic flow demonstrates that they are in violation of the “designated direction” law. Similarly, it also shows that the driver has failed to use the required “ordinary care” which is the level of care that a “reasonably careful” driver would use. As noted above, well over half of all wrong direction drivers qualify as being under the influence of alcohol.

Once you have proved negligence on the part of the driver – and any other responsible parties – then you may be able to recover pain and suffering compensation as well as economic damages to cover your medical bills and wages you haven’t been able to earn because your injuries kept you from going back to work.

What is being done to prevent wrong way driver crashes in Michigan?

In Michigan, safety precautions to prevent wrong way driver accidents include: (1) attaching flashing lights to “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs; (2) reflective pavement markings, (3) rumble strips, (4) sensors and cameras to alert police, and (5) billboards to alert motorists to a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation – in cooperation with the Michigan State Police and the City of Grand Rapids – has installed and will continue to install wrong-way detection systems on 20 exits along U.S. 131. According to Bridge Michigan:

  • “The high-tech systems, attached to existing ‘Wrong Way’ or ‘Do Not Enter signs,’ automatically trigger lights and cameras whenever a driver tries to enter the highway using the wrong ramp. Drivers pulling onto an off-ramp will immediately see flashing lights alerting them to their potentially catastrophic error, police will be notified, and cameras will begin recording footage of the incident, allowing authorities to rule out false alarms.”

The MDOT elaborates on these new safety systems and identifies the areas on U.S. 131 where they will be located:

  • “Detection systems will be added at interchange off-ramps along US-131 between Ann Street and M-11 (28th Street) to warn drivers they are going the wrong way. A series of lights will flash on the wrong way signs, cameras will start rolling, and the authorities will be alerted. Similar systems are already in place at the northbound US-131 off ramp to Cherry Street and the northbound US-131 off ramp (Hynes Avenue) to Hall Street.”

Injured in a car accident and need a lawyer? Call Michigan Auto Law now!

If you were injured in a car accident in Michigan caused by a wrong way driver and have questions about your legal rights to compensation and economic damages, call Michigan Auto Law now (855) 960-3320 for a free consultation with an experienced and specialized car accident lawyer. There is no cost or obligation. You can also visit our contact page or use the chat feature on our website.

Michigan Auto Law is Michigan’s largest and most successful law firm that specializes exclusively in helping people who have been injured in auto accidents.

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Unlike other law firms, our attorneys are never too busy to promptly return phone calls and answer questions.

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More importantly, this client-focused approach leads to better and faster settlements for our clients. Michigan Auto Law has recovered more million-dollar settlements and trial verdicts for motor vehicle accidents than any other lawyer or law firm in Michigan. We’ve also recovered the highest ever reported truck accident and car accident settlement in the state.

If you were or a loved was was injured in a wrong way driver accident in Michigan, call now so we can start making a real difference for you.