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Fatal Wrong-Way Collisions on New Mexico’s Interstate Highways, 1990–2004

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Medical examiner files from 1990 through 2004 were reviewed to identify fatalities caused by drivers traveling the wrong direction on interstate highways and identify risk factors and prevention strategies. Other fatal nonpedestrian interstate motor vehicle crashes served as a comparison group. Data abstracted included decedent demographics, driver/passenger status, seatbelt use, blood alcohol concentration, weather and light at time of occurrence and types of vehicles involved. Of 1171, 79 (6.7%) interstate motor vehicle fatalities were because of drivers traveling against the posted direction in 49 crashes, with one to five fatalities per crash. Wrong-way collisions were significantly more likely to occur during darkness (p <0.0001) and involve legally intoxicated drivers (p <0.0001). In 29/49 (60%) wrong-way crashes, alcohol was a factor. Prevention strategies aimed at reducing the incidence of driving while intoxicated, as well as improved lighting and signage at ramps, could help reduce the occurrence of fatal wrong-way collisions on interstates.
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Keywords: alcoholic intoxication; coroners and medical examiners; forensic science; motor vehicles

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Office of the Medical Investigator, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 2: Department of Pharmacy, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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