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Texas leads nation in wrong-way crashes

KEYE

Monday afternoon, a woman who died in a head-on crash on U.S. 183 was identified as 29-year-old Emily Elisabeth Overbey. She died after going the wrong way down 183 near Burnet Road.

It's the latest wrong-way crash in a year that's seen a record number of deadly car accidents in Austin. Across Texas, the state has also seen a jump in the number of drivers ignoring one-way signs.

Texas leads the nation in the number of wrong-way crashes. Most wrong-way accidents happen late at night or early in the morning and many wrong-way drivers have also been drinking or using drugs.

"People go the wrong way all the time and it's really dangerous," said Alana Gross, a senior at the University of Texas.

"I was this close to being smacked into," said Gross.

Her apartment sits on a one-way street near campus. "I was coming out of my garage and someone was flying past me and I'm on a one-way so they were totally going the wrong way," said Gross.

Her sorority house also faces a one-way street. She says the West Campus maze makes a confusing situation even more dangerous. "It is definitely an everyday thing, but not just for cars, for skateboarders and bicyclists, everyone does it," said Gross.

The UT senior thinks one solution is bigger, more visible signs. "Because they're kind of hidden with all the foliage that's around here," said Gross.

Other drivers might miss the signs because they're drunk. A research project conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute tracked the eye movements of intoxicated drivers and found they tend to get tunnel vision. They do not have a tendency to see signs on the sides of the road, only what's right in front of them.

It also might help to lower "do not enter" and "wrong way" signs. The standard height is seven feet. The North Texas Tollway Authority lowered signs at some intersections on its toll road system in the Dallas area to three feet and has seen a significant drop in incidents. Drivers seem to notice lower signs when entering an exit ramp.

It's going to be a number of years before Texas sees the ultimate countermeasure. Once more cars are technologically connected; law enforcement authorities could be notified when a driver is going the wrong way down a one-way street. Alarms could even sound inside a driver's vehicle.

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