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Wrong-way driving crashes are up in Oklahoma

OHP state trooper
Posted at 6:00 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 23:43:40-04

OKLAHOMA — New data just released shows in 2019, Oklahoma lost 24 people due to wrong-way driving crashes, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.

Maggie Dubois was a victim of a wrong-way drunk driver. She was in her second year teaching at Bixby Central Elementary School. She was a bubbly mother of two with a radiant smile that lit up the room. Her life was instantly taken by a wrong-way, drunk driver back in October of 2019, leaving behind her shattered husband, Chad, and their two children, 5-year-old Evie and 2-year-old, Liza.

Her family released this statement to 2 News:

“Maggie was an incredible teacher, mother, and person. She was a mom who poured every ounce of love and attention she had into her children. She was a teacher who attended her students’ sporting events and birthday parties. She was creative, funny and full of life. Her untimely death due to a wrong-way, the drunk driver has forever impacted our family, her students, and our community.

Our family would like drivers to know that their choices matter. Their choices have the power to affect far more people than just themselves. They affect families like ours, and they affect entire communities. Drivers should feel responsible and accountable for every decision they make on the road. Drunk driving and distracted driving can have serious consequences that spill over into the lives of countless other people. It’s a driver’s responsibility to their community to make the best decisions possible when behind the wheel. We hope Maggie’s story will help more people take that responsibility seriously.”

Wrong-way driving wrecks like the one that took Maggie's life are all too familiar to OHP Trooper Mark Southall. He's seen the worst of the worst when it comes to bad accidents, and he said those images can remain with you for a very, long time.

“By the time your adrenaline slows down, and you’ve cleaned up the scene and you’ve talked to family members, and you have time to process it, it does take a toll on you for sure," Southall said.

AAA, the NTSB, and OHP are joining together to warn drivers of the risks of fatal confusion.

“We will try to do anything that we can. We try to get their attention, number one and if we have to deploy a stop stick or maybe even use our car to block them which has been done in the past, we’ll do whatever it takes to prevent innocent people from being injured," Southall said.

Researchers took a hard look at 8 factors related to these types of crashes, and data showed three factors that stood out:

  • alcohol impairment
  • elderly drivers
  • driving without a passenger

Six out of ten wrong-way driving crashes involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Drivers with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 were significantly more likely to be wrong-way drivers, than those without alcohol in their system involved in the same crashes.

"For an elderly driver, it may be confusing. There are a lot of signs and maybe they are not quite as cognitive as what they used to be, or maybe they don’t really process stuff as quickly as they used to," Southall said.

Mark Madeja with AAA said not having a passenger in your car can sometimes contribute to a wrong-way crash too.

"The passenger would then be able to say, hey wait a minute, you are going the wrong way. They don’t have that other set of eyes, so these crashes increase as well," Madeja said.

What's the best thing to do if you see a driver headed straight towards you, going the wrong way?

“Just pull over and stop. Make sure you are safe and then call us and let us know what you are seeing once you are safe," Southall said.

According to the NTSB, alcohol impairment is the single most significant factor of wrong-way driving crashes.

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