Study finds wrong way crashes frequently caused by drunk drivers - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Study finds wrong way crashes frequently caused by drunk drivers

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At first she thought it might be a deer. The driver of the Ford Focus going the wrong way on I-25 narrowly missed Nellie Palmerie as she drove north from the Purcell Boulevard exit Monday night. 

"As I immediately called 911, I was looking in my rear view mirror and headlights are swerving everywhere," Palmerie said.

She said the car didn't have it's headlights on. Minutes later that driver, a 28 year old man from Manassa, Colorado would cause the three car accident South of Pueblo that sent a family from Aurora and a man from Alaska to the hospital. 

"I felt lucky enough to pass him and then it became a panic of, Oh my God, what's going on behind me," Palmerie said.

Troopers report that driver of the that Focus suffered the most severe injuries, describing them as life-threatening. He was flown to a hospital in Colorado Springs for treatment.

Miguel Casas-Fernandez of Aurora was driving one of the vehicles that was hit. He and passengers Ana Estrada- Enriquez, Miguel Mendoza-Ceballos and a one-year-old infant were all taken to Pueblo hospitals for treatment. Barry Leucker of Anchorage, Alaska was driving a pick up that was struck and suffered moderate injuries.

Alcohol use is suspected to be a contributing factor in the wreck.

It's the second time in less than a week that a "wrong way" driver caused a serious crash on I-25 in Pueblo County. Three people died Friday when a 71-year old man from Washington was driving south in the northbound lanes when he stuck and killed a Colorado Springs grandmother and her 9 year old grandson about a mile north of the Purcell Boulevard exit.

A National Transportation Safety Board study published in 2012 found wrong way accidents are relatively rare, making up less than 3 percent of all fatal wrecks recorded in the US. 

However, they are also some of the most dangerous because they usually result in a head-on collision. The Safety Board also found that a majority of wrong way drivers were drunk.

"About 60 to 70 percent of them are impaired," said Maile Gray, Executive Director of Drive Smart Colorado.

She said the study also found drivers who are 70 years and older were statistically over-represented in wrong way collisions. 
The NTSB recommended states put up additional lights and signs to make the danger more obvious to drivers. Gray thinks that way too many drivers in Colorado are getting behind the wheel impaired.

"These things can be prevented. Traffic crashes do not need to occur. We need to not drive distracted, we need to pay complete attention," Gray said. "If we are distracted, even for just a brief second, we might miss that person who is impaired."

2016 has been a particularly deadly year on Colorado Highways. The Colorado Department of Transportation recorded 526 deaths as of December 19, the highest number of deaths in more than a decade.

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