GPS, Ignition Interlocks, Signage Among Wrong-Way Driving Solutions: NTSB

According to the special report issued Dec. 11 by the safety board, between 2004 and 2009 there were 1,566 wrong-way fatal crashes in the United States that killed 2,139 people.

All states should require ignition interlock systems for first-time DUI offenders, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended Dec. 11. Thirty-three states currently do not require them, according to its new special report on the problem.

The report indicates how widespread this problem is and to what extent alcohol is involved: With the report's release, NTSB tweeted that 59 percent of drivers had a blood alcohol content above 0.15, and between 2004 and 2009 there were 1,566 wrong-way fatal crashes in the United States that killed 2,139 people. In just the past week alone, nine such crashes killed 11 people in California, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and North Carolina, NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman reported in her post on the board's Safety Compass blog.

The board also recommends wide and expedited use of passive alcohol detection systems, or DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) to tackle the problem directly. According to the board, better signage could reduce wrong-way driving, and another useful technology would be having GPS systems provide a warning when a driver initiates wrong-way movement.

"Wrong-way collisions are among the most lethal types of accidents on our nation's highways because they are frequently head-on accidents with closing (combined) speeds in excess of 100 mph," Hersman wrote. "Each year, there are about 250 fatal wrong-way collisions on high-speed divided highways, such as interstates and expressways. These crashes take the lives of nearly 400 people and injure thousands more." She said the board initiated a special study last year "to better understand the factors that cause these tragic events."

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