The 24-year-old driving the wrong way down a South Florida highway late last month should not have been behind the wheel of that vehicle. He was barred from driving until at least 2020 after being labeled a habitual traffic offender.
Yet there he was, on I-95, driving head-on into opposing lane traffic. It’s not exactly clear at this point where he was going or whether he was intoxicated, though the latter facts seems plausible, given his history and the fact that most wrong-way crashes are precipitated by substance abuse and impairment.
But the driving prohibitions placed on him by the courts didn’t seem to matter. As a result, two young sisters with promising futures are dead. The women, ages 23 and 24, were on their way to their mother’s home in South Florida after spending a weekend together at Disney World. Their Toyota Matrix was struck head-on by the other driver’s Jeep Cherokee. A fire broke out. A retired police officer was one of the first to arrive at the scene. It was too late. The two young women were already gone. “It hurts my soul,” the retired officer said of the fact he couldn’t save them. He added the vehicle was a mangled mess, the heat was intense and he hoped only that “it was quick” and painless for them.
Now, the girls’ family is reeling as they prepare to make funeral arrangements for the pair who still had their whole lives ahead of them. The 23-year-old was an accomplished violinist who recently graduated with honors in violin performance. Her older sister was an Air Force staff sergeant.
Meanwhile, the alleged at-fault driver was critically injured. He was pulled from the wreckage by that retired officer, who cut the seat belt and dragged the unconscious man out of the window. Driver was then transported to a nearby hospital, where he is continuing his recovery.
While the Florida Highway Patrol continues its investigation, no charges have yet been filed against the surviving driver. However, his traffic history – which includes a DUI conviction and multiple violations for driving with a suspended license – indicates he wasn’t the most responsible behind the wheel.
But wrong-way auto accidents in Florida are nothing new. When the Tampa Bay Times analyzed the issue last year, it was reported there were 70 incidents of wrong-way drivers on limited-access highways in and around the Tampa Bay area over the course of just seven years – in addition to the nearly 700 wrong-way incidents that reported on local streets just in 2014 alone.
Some of the noted reasons had to do with confusing construction zones and there have been some communities that have proposed the erection of more visible wrong-way signs at exit ramps.
But there continues to be a common thread in the vast majority of these cases: Drunk driving. In almost all of the wrong-way incidents that resulted in a crash – including all of those that resulted in a fatality – the wrong-way drivers were drunk.
So while faulty engineering may certainly be part of it, the primary source of the problem is with irresponsible drivers.
Our experienced car accident attorneys can help victims determine all potential causes of legal action and damage recovery.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Driver in fatal wrong-way crash had revoked license, records show, Oct. 1, 2015, By Lisa J. Huriash, Sun-Sentinel