A growing rash of dangerous accidents involving wrong-way drivers in Iowa has the Department of Transportation (DOT) concerned about what to do to fix the problem.

According to Willy Sorenson of the DOT, about 70-80 percent of wrong-way incidents do not end in accidents. That's good news and the reasons it doesn't happen more often are usually because either the driver self-corrects or police discover the wrong-way driver and stop them before an accident can occur. The rest of the time, the collision will indeed occur head-on.

But there are still plenty of occurrences and in the last few years, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, there have been at least two reported fatalities and one close call as a result of wrong-way driving.  Only one of the three did not result in a fatality, but all were reported to involve a wrong-way, impaired driver, including radio executive Rob Norton. He died in 2018 as a result of a crash as he was driving the wrong way onto the interstate from 33rd Ave. SW for more than 3 miles before he collided with an oncoming car, killing a nurse and himself. He was believed to have alcohol in his system.

20 percent of wrong-way incidents are attributed to elderly drivers, while 60 percent is blamed on impaired driving.

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In an attempt to alleviate these issues, the DOT will be working on 95 Iowa interchanges, including 14 in Cedar Rapids and three in Iowa City, that are considered high-risk for wrong-way driving. The map below shows these intersections.

Larger signage to specifically target drivers in turn lanes and new paint markings that include directional arrows and other warnings are among the enhancements most interchanges will receive. These improvements will come at a cost of about $794,525, with funds coming out of federal highway safety improvement funds.

60 others will receive cameras that can identify wrong-way drivers and send an e-mail alert. Each camera is expected to cost around $1,400, taken out of road-use tax fund dollars.

 

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