Where are Charlotte Head-On Collisions Most Likely to Occur?

Head-on collisions are defined by Safety Transportation to include drivers traveling the wrong way in a traffic lane, or drivers crossing the median or center line and driving into opposing traffic. Head-on collisions are among the most deadly type of car accident because of the combined force and momentum of two cars striking each other directly. 

Drivers need to understand where head-on collisions are most likely to occur so they can ensure they exercise additional care in high-risk situations.

Where Do Charlotte Head-On Collisions Occur Most Frequently?

Most head-on crashes happen when drivers go the wrong way into opposing traffic. There were 7,734 motor vehicle accidents in North Carolina in 2012 in which contributing factor to the crash was a driver going the wrong way. Drivers going the wrong way caused 220 fatal motor vehicle accidents and 3,742 collisions leading to injury, according to Traffic Crash Facts from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration studied where wrong-way accidents happen. In a review of 110 accidents, it was discovered:

  • 71 of the collisions occurred on the actual freeway (called the mainline freeway).
  • 31 occurred on exit ramps leading onto freeways.
  • Six occurred on a ramp connecting one freeway to another freeway.
  • Two occurred on an entrance ramp

Not all entrance and exit ramps had an equal risk of wrong-way head on collisions.  A design called a cloverleaf design was the highest risk location. These designs put an exist and entrance ramp adjacent to each other.

Cloverleaf on and off ramps are more likely to be the location of a head-on crash because a driver who is making a lefthand turn has to pass over the exit lane to reach the entrance lane. Sometimes, these motorists incorrectly turn onto the exit lane and strike other vehicles exiting the freeway or actually travel up the exit lane onto the freeway where they hit oncoming traffic.

Two-lane divided roads are also a common site for head-on accidents. Accidents on these roads are especially common in more rural areas. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns 13 percent of crashes in rural areas are head-on collisions. In urban areas, only seven percent of crashes are head-on.

When a two-lane divided road puts opposing traffic close together with only a yellow line or small median in the middle, drivers who fall asleep for a second, or who are distracted or impaired, could veer into the other lane and cause a devastating head-on accident. Drivers may also sometimes try to pass vehicles by crossing over a divided middle lane into lanes meant for opposing traffic. The sudden approach of a car under these circumstances could result in a head-on collision.

Drivers on both freeways and on rural roads need to know about these different locations where head-on collisions are likely to happen. By understanding high-risk areas, motorists can make smart choices including paying more careful attention to road signs when entering and exiting freeways and avoiding distraction, drunkenness, or unsafe passing on other roads.