Few things are more terrifying than seeing a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road – and heading straight toward your car. Head-on collisions are extremely dangerous.
Although they comprise only 2 percent of all auto accidents, 20 percent of them are fatal, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. And those that aren’t fatal often result in catastrophic injuries, including head trauma, broken bones, and spinal cord damage.
About 75 percent of all head-on collisions occur on rural roads or undivided two-lane roads. Most often, they are caused by a driver falling asleep at the wheel, driving while distracted, drunk driving, speeding, or failing to negotiate a curve properly.
In big cities like Chicago, head-on collisions commonly happen when a driver fails to yield the right-of-way during a turn, or runs a red light or stops sign.
The good news is that many head-on collisions can be avoided, if you know what defensive actions to take.
You’ll have to take most of these actions in a split-second, so keep them in mind at all times.
- Scan the road. Constantly look at the road ahead of you, taking special notice of upcoming curves or hills. This way, you’ll be able to identify any erratic driving behavior, like a car straddling the middle line or weaving, early on. The more time you have to react to a car straying into your lane, the less likely you are to have a head-on collision.
- Reduce your speed. If you see an oncoming car in your lane, reduce your speed. This can help minimize damage and/or injuries in case of impact. But resist the temptation to slam on the brakes. If you brake too hard, you’ll be in danger of losing control of your car or having another car rear-end you.
- Drive to the right. Your chances of avoiding a head-on collision is increased if you can move as far to the right before the other car collides with yours. This increases the chance that the other driver will go right by you, or will become sufficiently alert to your presence to self-correct.
- Be prepared to ride off the road. If you’ve gone as far right as possible and you still are in danger of being hit, be ready to drive into a ditch, hedge or on the road shoulder.
- Hit a solid object, if necessary. Your chance of survival is much higher if you collide with a stationary object rather than colliding head-on with a moving vehicle. If you find you must hit a solid object, aim as far to the right of the object as possible so that it hits the side of your vehicle.