Hundreds of people are killed every year in head-on traffic accidents all across the United States. Here in Maryland, we certainly have our share of tragic collisions where a vehicle crosses over the centerline of a two-way street or highway and collides with another car or truck. Depending on whether one is riding in a passenger car, commercial truck, city bus or motorcycle, the results of a head-on wreck can range from severe to downright deadly.
Fatal head-on collisions can occur for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is drunken driving; however, cellphone use, texting, fiddling with the radio, carrying on distracting conversations and other in-vehicle disturbances can draw the driver’s attention from the singly important task of operating a 3,000-pound vehicle on a public road. Especially at highway speeds, a moment’s distraction can easily turn out to be fatal. Being personal injury lawyers here in Maryland, as well as auto accident attorneys, I and my colleagues know the dangers that distracted driving can present.
While every driver has likely considered the almost unthinkable results of a head-on crash while traveling along an undivided highway or surface street, the odds of having a head-on wreck when driving on the interstate or other divided roadway seems rather remote. Yet, as we were reminded not long ago, this kind of potentially fatal car, motorcycle or commercial truck accident is possible, and does happen from time to time.
According to news articles last month, just this very scenario played itself out along Maryland’s Rte 50 in Anne Arundel County during the early morning hours of January 28 when a passenger car filled with three teens and traveling the wrong way smashed head-on into a second vehicle killing everyone involved. Based on police reports from that day, 911 emergency telephone operators received almost a dozen calls from drivers and passengers who saw a Chrysler Sebring going the wrong way on Rte 50 just after 3am on a Saturday morning.
News reports indicate that the car traveled almost 10 miles before the fatal crash happened about 15 miles west of Annapolis, MD. Based on information provided by police, three people died at the scene of the wreck, while a fourth victim pass away while on route to the hospital.
Three of the victims, all of whom were riding in the errant vehicle, included Breanna M. Franco, 18; Zachary T. Rose, 18; and the driver, 19-year-old Brittany A. Walker. Based on reports, the three dead teens were former Meade High School grads students. The name of the driver of the vehicle that was struck by the wrong-way driver was not available at the time of the news article.
According to police, the teens’ Chrysler had reportedly driven south in the northbound lanes of I-97 and then went westbound — against traffic — along the eastbound lanes of Rte 50 before it crashed head-on into a BMW, not far from Davidsonville, Maryland.
One of the more detailed 911 calls described the wrong-way vehicle headed south along Interstate 97 nearly four miles from the Rte 50 interchange. One caller posited that the driver likely didn’t even know he or she was headed the wrong way on the interstate (apparently the vehicle was in the far left lane, which would have been the “right-hand” lane from the perspective of the occupants riding in the wrong-way vehicle).
It is hard to know where or when the vehicle found its way onto I-97 and then Rte 50; news articles speculated that error may have occurred as a result of a “convoluted mistake” at the I-97/Rte 32 interchange or even father north. At the time of the article, police had not been able to nail down the exact chain of events, especially difficult due to the time of day and the relatively few numbers of vehicles on the road at the time.
Drivers called 911 before Route 50 crash, HometownAnnapolis.com, January 3, 2012
Police: 4 die when driver goes wrong way on Maryland highway near Annapolis, WashingtonPost.com, January 28, 2012