Their quick action probably saved lives. The 77-year-old driver suffered from dementia as he drove the wrong way down the freeway, according to the West Midlands Police department, which uploaded video of the crash to its YouTube account. The officers involved and driver emerged unharmed from the accident.
But others who encounter wrong-way drivers aren't so lucky. A 2012 special report from the National Transportation Safety Board on wrong-way drivers found such crashes account for three percent of all collisions but are disproportionately likely to cause death or injury. That's because head-on collisions are the most dangerous type of crash. The California Department of Transportation found wrong-way collisions were 12 times more likely to end in a fatality and the Michigan Department of Transportation found that such crashes increase the likelihood of a fatality by 22 percent. On average, 360 lives are lost in wrong-way accidents each year.
While the study included recommendations for clearly marking on and off ramps on freeways and building barriers so that drivers aren't confused, wrong-way drivers are hard to prevent. Many are mentally confused due to age. Drivers over the age of 70 are disproportionately represented in wrong-way crashes. Older drivers are involved in less than 3 percent of overall crashes, but 15 percent of wrong-way crashes.
However, mental confusion and unfamiliarity with an area cause a minority of wrong-way crashes. The vast majority of these crashes involve drunk drivers rather than confused motorists.
Sixty percent of wrong-way drivers had alcohol levels above the legal limit. Of those impaired drivers, nearly 60 percent had a BAC of .15, which is approaching the .16 benchmark used by many states as the threshold for 'super drunk.'
Staring down a pair of headlights on the freeway is a frightening scenario to consider, but there are a few simple steps for protection yourself in this situation.
Many drivers only keep an eye on the few hundred feet ahead of their car. Drivers who keep an eye on the horizon or at least far ahead of their own headlights stand a better chance of seeing the wrong-way driver.
No one likes to see brake lights on the freeway, but if a wrong-way driver is barreling toward you, slowing down can add precious moments to your decision making.
Swerve To The Right
Like the driver on the M6, wrong-way drivers often go all the way to the right because they think it's the slow lane, rather than the fast lane. Swerving to the right is always recommended in a head-on collision situation because it will deflect much of the force of the impact. It's much safer to hit a stationary object or roll into a ditch than a moving vehicle (especially if you've slowed down) so even if swerving seems equally dangerous, do it anyway.
Wearing a seatbelt greatly increases the likelihood of surviving any type of crash. According to AAA, seat belts saved more than 12,000 lives last year. Buckle up every time you drive.