What to do if you encounter a wrong-way driver

What to do if you encounter a wrong-way driver

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What to do if you encounter a wrong-way driver


by KING 5 News


Posted on April 5, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 5 at 7:54 PM

Following Thursday morning’s wrong-way collision on State Route 520 involving a suspected drunk driver, which ended with another driver's death, the Washington State Patrol has advice on what to do if you encounter a wrong-way driver, and how to tell if you're going the wrong way.

“The State Patrol has told me that wrong way DUIs are the most dangerous circumstances they have to deal with," said Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland

The best advice, according to Trooper Keith Leary, is for drivers to make sure they are paying attention to the road 100 percent of the time when behind the wheel with no distractions.

Encountering a wrong-way driver

Leary advises that you drive in the right lane, which he says you should already be doing anyway except to pass.

“This may not always be the case, but if a driver is going the wrong way, most often times they naturally want to ‘do the right thing’ and stay right,” said Leary. If that's the case, then the wrong way driver would actually be in the left lane while you are on the right.

As a trooper, Leary said he’s dealt with several wrong-way drivers.

“Each time, those drivers were traveling in what they thought was the right lane, but were actually in the left lane of the correct direction (of) traffic.”

Encountering a wrong-way driver often happens without warning, but Leary said you should move out of the path of travel, slow down and use caution.

“Once the wrong way driver has passed, call 911,” he said.

Leary has personal experience in encountering a wrong way driver. It happened about 20 years ago on State Route 512 in Puyallup .

"I was traveling west and saw headlights coming around the corner at me. I quickly moved right and the car went by me in the "Left Lane," subsequently colliding head-on with a vehicle trying to pass me. If I remember right, both drivers were killed. I do remember the wrong way driver was impaired and had been involved in several hit and run collisions before this happened, I remember being told."

How can drivers tell if they are going the wrong way?

It can happen to the best of us, even when we're unimpaired. For whatever reason, we may end up going the wrong way, whether it's on a highway or a surface street. Leary says to look for these clues -- some more obvious than others -- that will let you know you're going the wrong way.

  • Cars parked facing the opposite direction
  • Signage facing the opposite direction
  • Traffic coming at you
  • Signs that say "Do not enter" or "One way"