By on October 31, 2010

Some of you may have seen this already, but if not, it’s scarier than anything you’ll see trick or treating at your front door tonight. An 84 year old woman somehow got on the I-95 near Philadelphia going the wrong way, in the fast lane at that. She caused several wrecks by vehicles dodging her, but no fatalities.

It’s a perfect reenactment of when I came closer to death than just about ever, on the 101 in the Bay Area, at night no less:

In 1988, I had driven up to SFO to pick up my boss who had flown in from NY, and we were heading south back to San Jose. At about eight or nine at night, there was still plenty of traffic, but not exactly thick, and I was in the left (fast) lane, right up against the divider barrier. I was rolling long at about seventy, when suddenly the car ahead of me pulls over abruptly to the next lane on the right.

His urgency seemed a bit odd, but in a split second I saw why: a pair of headlights coming straight on, and closing in extremely fast. I instantly yanked my 300E over too, and seemingly instantaneously, the wrong way car shot by like a missile. The whole incident lasted maybe two seconds, from the time I saw the other driver pull over, to seeing my life flash by.

I checked the late news when I got home that night, but there was nothing. How could someone cross the four lanes of busy 101, not kill anyone driving down the fast lane, and then eventually cross the lanes and get off again? Mind boggling.

Anyone else seen one?

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46 Comments on “Wrong Way Driver Caught On Video – Triggers PTSD Flare Up – Ever See One?...”

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    This video is not available in my country…. That really pi**es me off.

  • avatar

    One night I saw someone facing the wrong way in the left lane once, but they weren’t moving.  Traffic all-of-a-sudden almost stopped and there they were.  I figured they must have spun out somehow.

  • avatar

    Oh YES!! I-84 between Hartford, CT and the Mass pike. July ’76. I was driving to Maine from Philadelphia, still reeling from the loose horse(!) on the Cross-Bronx Express?way. I was cruising 70-ish in the middle (of 3) lane in my ’74 Dasher. I remember wanting to pull out and pass a Maverick in front, but had a strange feeling to stay put, as I went up a hill. As I crested the hill, a big Cadillac passed in the left lane, the wrong way, going at least 70. A (no doubt) frightened cop was making his way, fast, in the breakdown lane, the wrong way, on my right.
    To this day, I sometimes look skyward with a smile as I drive that road.

  • avatar

    The only thing that would have made this clip better is if she had a BUGGATI VEYRON SUPER SPORT.

  • avatar

    I saw a wrong way driver once, going down Highway 1 through Saskatchewan. Some older lady turned left into oncoming traffic, and stayed that way for about 5 km, till the next break in the median. Fortunately, being Saskatchewan, there wasn’t much traffic, so no harm done.

  • avatar

    Never had a wrong-way at highway speed, but the scariest incident I’ve had in almost 35 years of driving did involve an elderly driver on I-95 about 100 miles south.
    Was driving towards NYC in a Toyota Tercel at the I-695 left exit north of Baltimore, and an elderly driver stopped with signal on waiting for left exiting traffic to clear came into view only about 100 feet ahead.  There was a car behind me in the lane to the right.  I crossed in front of it without braking and regained composure by driving for a moment on the right shoulder before continuing the trip.

  • avatar

    This happened to me in Northern Wisconsin 5-6 years ago. It was a half ton red pickup and it ended up colliding head on with a station wagon I had previously passed. Saw it on the evening news.

  • avatar

    I haven’t seen one, but a couple months ago it happened again on 101 in the Bay Area:
    It happened a 3AM, so I don’t think it was the incident you witnessed, Paul. The backup from the accident lasted all day.

  • avatar

    On the DC beltway, in the snow.  Some idiot who thinks their SUV can defy the laws of physics goes zipping by in the center left lane, I was in the right lane.  After they got about 200 yards past me they spun out, somehow remaining in their lane but facing the wrong way.  I had anticipated their stupidity and was already slowing down, so fortunately for the idiot the people around me started slowing when they saw my brake lights, or else they anticipated the problem as well.  At any rate, nobody hit her, but she cut right in front of me to get off the road onto the shoulder.

  • avatar

    Back in 1998, I was stopped at a red light at the bottom of an exit ramp in Jacksonville, FL.  As I was stopped at the red light, I was horrified to watch an elderly lady repeatedly try to enter the exit ramp.  If it wasn’t for the two lanes of cars stopped at the bottom of the ramp waiting for the light to turn green and blocking her way, she would have succeeded.

  • avatar

    ….. in the spirit (no pun intended) of the holiday.

  • avatar

    Never seen one up close besides “World’s Wildest Police Videos”. The impact ripped the beam axle right out of that old man’s Taurus. My grandmother once went the wrong way about an eighth of a mile up an off ramp before realizing her mistake and turning around. Lucky for her there was no traffic. The Germans actually have a term for a wrong way driver: Geisterfahrer, meaning ghost driver. If you’re on an Autobahn and going the wrong way, you’re gonna wind up as a ghost right quick!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Huge storm back in January of 1996. I was going through the Maryland/DC area when all of a sudden, a car on an off ramp starts to 180, falls down a steep hill and goes directly into the oncoming traffic.
    I saw at least two other cars spin out as this vehicle just goes completely across I-95 and into the center median ditch. A Lexus no less. That was one of over a dozen accidents I would see on that drive.
    I went through the entire state of Virginia trying to look for a hotel room. No dice. It wasn’t until North Carolina that I found one available. I spent the next two days chilling out and eating gas station food as the blizzard just went on and on. It took three days to get out of there.

  • avatar

    I’ve never seen it on a highway, but I did it myself on a six lane (three lanes each way) local road a couple months after getting my license.  I was driving at night, a new thing for me, and turned onto US-40 the wrong direction.  Thankfully oncoming traffic had been held up at a light, and when I saw all of the headlights moving towards me I had time to hop a curb into an Arby’s parking lot.  Also thankfully, I’ve never done it since.
    More recently, I’ve seen it multiple times on another local road on my way to work.  The road goes from three lanes each direction to three lanes one way as the westbound lanes split off onto a different one-way road.  A lot of people turning in from a residential street don’t realize that the road is one way at that point, and since it the fact that it is one way is poorly marked coming out of the neighborhood, it’s not uncommon for someone to turn heading into traffic.

  • avatar

    Not wrong way, but I watched an elderly woman blow a stop sign near my house.  A gorgeous first gen Camaro blasted the side of the bat’s Cutlass Ciera.  I felt really bad for this guy; his car was shot from the “A” pillar forward.  The bat insisted that she had stopped but I told the police the truth.

    • 0 avatar

      This happened to me and my Step-Dad once.
      We were on our way back from Home Depot with a load of wood in the bed of his (brand new) Ram 3500 Dually going 65 MPH.  We came to a green light (first light on an expressway that becomes a local highway).  In the other direction it was also green but was red to left turns.  An elderly woman with 3 other elderly folks in the car turned anyway.  If she kept going, she could have made it (barely) but she panicked and stopped dead in the middle of our lane.
      My step-dad swerved, but she was in a position where there was no avoiding it.  The front end of her K-Car (big surprise, right?) was torn right off.  The engine and transmission (well what was left of them) were 15 feet away from the rest of the car.
      By the grace of god/my old man’s driving skill/dumb luck, the worst injury of the bunch was my sore back for a few days.  The women tried to claim they had the green but a helpful trucker had been behind them and saw the whole thing.  He went out of his way to stay and talk to the police and made himself available to the insurance companies as well (she tried to sue, lost horribly).  The police officer on scene cited her for reckless driving and she ended up loosing her license.
      Could have easily ended with multiple fatalities…

  • avatar

    This is precisely why elderly people should not be on the road. I don’t care if they have the reflexes of a gift horse. There are too many variables that can go wrong, causing elderly people to drive the wrong way, etc.
    After a certain age, licenses should be ripped up and elderly cars retired and sold to the cheapest bidder.

    • 0 avatar

      Given that elderly people – AFAIK – have fewer accidents per driver-mile than 20-somethings, presumably your license shouldn’t be granted until 30 and then shredded – presumably at car_guy2010’s age plus whatever the minimum time is that you feel like is a really long way off.
      Seriously – testing on age instead of competence is absurd. You’d have shredded Paul Newman’s license while he was competitive in the 24 hours of Daytona, but not that of some 20-something who’s tweeting from behind the wheel? Come on…

    • 0 avatar

      You’re missing the point.
      Even if we don’t go after people based on age, there must be improved standards in testing.
      And for the record, I don’t text or use the phone while driving. I still use my turn signals (unlike some insane douche in a BMW that cut two lanes in front of me without a turn signal) and I go no more than 5mph over the speed limit.

    • 0 avatar

      Perisoft, check the IIHS stats for elderly drivers; they rise after age 65 and really spike after age 75 (higher than 20 somethings) and are off the chart after age 85.  See the section “Population and Mileage Rates” for the details, graphs, and charts.
      The very old and very young are both generally a menace on the roads.

    • 0 avatar

      The very elderly do see a spike in accident numbers, but you’re not likely to see much done about it because, well, they’re also the slice of the population with the most money, the most time on their hands and the largest voter turnout.
      Or, to put it another way, there’s to AAYP.
      Cracking down on kids has no real downside, politically speaking.  Cracking down on the elderly?  You may as well hate Jesus and Apple Pie.

    • 0 avatar

      Even if we don’t go after people based on age, there must be improved standards in testing

      Testing won’t stop that.  Enforcement will.

    • 0 avatar

      Toad, from the top of the page you linked:
      “Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and increase markedly after age 80. This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury, particularly chest injuries, and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.2 Fragility begins to increase at ages 60-64. At age 75, older drivers begin to be markedly overinvolved in crashes, but fragility is the predominant factor explaining the elevated deaths per mile traveled among older drivers.2”
      Basically, older people are involved in more crashes, but the bulk of the spike you see in elevated deaths per mile driven has to do with younger people surviving the crashes more than it does older people crashing more often.
      We just need more stringent tests and training, period.

    • 0 avatar

      Also note that this lady didn’t cause an accident that would be attributed to her through any statistic.  No insurance claim on her part.  It’s the poor shlubs that had to swerve and crash to avoid her that get to bear the brunt of her inability to operate a vehicle correctly.

  • avatar

    Three times!
    First one was on I-85 during a college roadtrip in 1991 with four of us in an ’87 Cavalier. It was night, and I saw lights up ahead that didn’t look right. I quickly got out of the passing lane, and about 5 seconds later a pick-up comes barreling through. It took about two minutes for the reality of a brush with death to set in.
    Second one was in Toledo, Ohio, 1996, in a construction zone on a four lane surface street. My lane of traffic was funneled down to one lane, then shifted across to the opposite lane and sent through a divided roadway section over a bridge. Guess what I saw moments before entering this walled, one-lane section of road right before i entered it?
    Third incident was on Route 7 just north of Steubenville, Ohio, 2007. I, my wife, and two kids had just watched a biker pull about a half-mile wheelie in the opposite lane about five minutes before, when we crest a hill and see a Honda Accord with four older folks in it moving along in the shoulder/passing lane at a slow pace, obviously aware that they were on the wrong roadway, but not stopping! I had a cell phone this time and called the OHP, and they were already aware and on the way.
    I’m thinking of installing radar on my vehicles!

  • avatar

    I remember a few years ago, I was driving down a one-way street in Providence, RI (Waterman Ave., if anyone is from the area). I was going about 25 mph with nobody in front of me, and all of a sudden, a Chevy Impala with New York plates pulled out of a side street and gunned it at about 40 mph going the wrong way. Fortunately, the road was two lanes wide, and the Impala was able to avoid me (and vice versa, of course). They were headed right towards a busy intersection and a Whole Foods parking lot – I sure hope nobody got hurt!
    (Come to think of it, I have actually seen quite a few wrong-way drivers in this area, since there are so many one-way streets, but never any close calls like this one.)

    • 0 avatar

      Last month, we were up in Montreal on a road trip, stopped on a one-way street in the far left lane.
      Across the street a clueless Chevy Avalanche comes up, a block and a half, and comes to a stop directly across from us. I blinked my headlights, rolled down the window, and pointed to the two way street, like get the f out of the way, Jack. Light turns green, dumbass guns it, while I and the two cars to my right just stare at him, dumbfounded. Gets about 10 feet in front of me, and you can see the lightbulb go off over his Avalanche-brain. Derp, takes a hard right, travels the wrong way down the right lanes of the two-way street, and quickly gets into the appropriate lane.
      And to think, I’m the rube from the sticks 1000 miles from home in a foreign-speaking land. Still couldn’t believe he was oblivious to the phalanx of cars in front of him, flashing and honking at him. Where did the douche expect to go?

  • avatar

    A few weeks ago we had a 93 year old (surprise!) woman driving a Buick Regal (surprise!) in a highway head-on with a minivan containing a woman and her 2 young kids. The Buick driver expired at the hospital, but fortunately the occupants of the minivan came out with only minor or no injuries.

    The local newspaper report mentioned that the 93 year old’s son couldn’t imagine how the accident occurred. Well, let’s see, she just may have driven past the big signs that say ‘Stop. You Are Going The Wrong Way’, entered the highway by way of the offramp and the rest is history.

  • avatar

    Not in the same league as yours, Paul. For one thing, city street, city speeds. A couple of hours after midnight in Central Square Cambridge, I’m about to leave someone off when a car comes straight at me in my lane. I jerked my car to the right, out of his way, and he continued on the wrong side of the road at 20-25mph. I thiink it’s very unlikely I would have been killed, and I probably wouldn’t even have been too badly hurt, but I’m grateful there were no parked cars to my right, and for my reflexes and a responsive ’99 Accord.

  • avatar

    The video didn’t work for me, either, here in Massachusetts, which some people think is a different country, but which is in fact the state where our revolutionary war started.

    Oops. Video just worked.

  • avatar

    GET OUT OF THE ROAD! OLD PEOPLE DRIVING!  They can’t find the Country Kitchen Buffet.

  • avatar

    Everyday event in Manila…along with sidewalks used as a passing lane.
    After living in New Zealand for years I came to a meeting in Milwaukee, WI…during that week I had to stop and think before turning at some intersections, especially empty roads with little or no marking…easy to slip up.
    An American in NZ entered a round-about the wrong way! Talk about people dodging!….

  • avatar

    on the 101 in the Bay Area

    Here in the Bay Area, we never say it that way. You’re on 101, not on the 101. Of course, in Los Angeles they would say the 101. They don’t know how to talk right down there.

  • avatar

    That video reminds me of last night leaving the NE Patriot’s game. After large events at Gillette Stadium located on Route 1, they convert the lanes leading toward the stadium into outbound lanes and move the inbound traffic onto the inbound breakdown lane. So combined with the outbound breakdown lane, there are 5 outbound lanes of traffic rather than the normal two. It’s a strange experience, but works well.

  • avatar

    We actually saw and helped stop a 1-way driver.  We were driving along and looked over and saw a car keeping pace with us on the other side of the expressway.  We started blowing our horn and flashing our lights to try to warn the drivers on the other side and called 911 on our cell.  But we didn’t know exactly where we were, so we had to drive a mile or two before we could give our location to the operator.  Meanwhile, there were several near collisions.  Once we could tell the 911 operator where we were it wasn’t long before a cop got on and came driving straight at the wrong-way driver with lights and siren on and the driver pulled over.
    My guess is it was a confused oldster who thought they were on a 2-lane road and that the people who were coming their way in ‘their’ lane were passing without enough room.  It was a really bad few minutes watching and waiting helplessly for the wrong-way driver to kill a car-full of people.  Afterward, I’ve thought about what else we could have done.  Race ahead and try to find a place to cross the media ahead of the wrong way driver?  But then what?

  • avatar

    This happened to me last Tuesday morning on the Trans Canada Highway between Brandon and Carberry Manitoba. It was early morning, still dark and raining lightly. Luckily there was not much traffic. It tooks a few milliseconds to realize the headlights coming in my direction were actually in my lane, and not with all the other westbound traffic further to the left. i quickly pulled into the right lane behind the car I had been slowly overtaking, and laid on the horn. The driver of the wrong way vehicle didn’t even slow down…Scared the crap out of me.

  • avatar

    [another driver is trying to alert them that they’re driving on the wrong side of the highway] 
    Neal: He says we’re going the wrong way… 
    Del: Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going? 


  • avatar
    CHINO 52405

    Wrong-way highway driving (and drinking) killed my college roommate. He was in MD helping his sister move in to her new house and went out drinking with an old buddy. They left the bar so drunk my roommate had to lay his friend on the backseat of the car. Started home, got confused and turned onto an off ramp causing a head-on collision with a family in a full size van (he had on early 80’s Toyota). Thankfully, no one in the van was injured. My roommate was killed in the accident and his friend in the backseat suffered a broken neck but fully recovered. Tragic, but the best outcome assuming the accident had to kill someone.

  • avatar

    Early winter 1981 in Akron, Ohio. I was going on my way to Canton, OH when a little old lady managed to somehow get onto the eastbound lanes heading west on I-76. It was a snowy Tuesday or Wednesday night, around 9 or 10, so there wasn’t a large amount of traffic. I don’t know where she got on, I only noticed her after I realized that there wasn’t another left lane on that part of I-76. It was very strange to realize I was running alongside a wrong way driver. I was within five feet of her, but there was nothing I could do.
    I watched with horror as the few cars that were on the road swerved to get out of her way. Then, she turned on her left turn signal (!) and got on to the Market Street east-bound on ramp! Because the traffic was so spotty, she simply crossed the lanes, and cruised up the on-ramp. After that, I was too far ahead to see whatever became of her.

  • avatar

    I had a close call just this afternoon, in Davenport IA. The little old lady in question was going the right way, she just tried to change lanes into me. Several seconds of leaning on the horn and braking convinced her to move back.

    The car? A Mercury Sable, of course.

  • avatar

    About five years ago, around 9 o’clock one night, I was heading eastbound on WA-526 in the middle lane of a section where it is three lanes wide.  I saw the telltale headlights up ahead, then got a quick jolt of adrenaline as they passed me in the lane to my *right*.  A closing speed of 100+ mph never looked so fast.

  • avatar

    Not all elderly drivers are dangerously incompetent. Guys like Paul Frere, John Fitch and Paul Newman were better drivers in their 80s than most people are at any age. My father drove competently and efficiently until he suffered two stokes at age 90. On the other hand, my mother-in-law lost her license at the same age after a highway worker had to stop her from going the wrong way on the interstate.
    The way to weed out the incompetent elderly is through testing. For a start, I would suggest testing every two years beginning at age 70 and every year beginning at age 80. It doesn’t even have to be a driving test. Going the wrong way is caused by the loss of mental faculties rather than deterioration of vision, motor skills or reflexes. They would fail if the test were to play tic tac toe. It’s not that they couldn’t win; rather, they wouldn’t be able to figure out how to play.
    We all have had encounters with elderly drivers who shouldn’t be on the road any more. However, it’s not enough to tell war stories. Each of us needs to take action whenever the situation demands it. If you observe an accident caused by, or just precipitated by, an incompetent elderly driver, stick around to be a witness and make sure your observations are not ignored. If you observe incompetent driving, get out your cell phone and call 911. Follow as best you can without risking anyone’s life and help the police locate and stop the driver. Then, make sure to give them a detailed statement. If you can’t get the police to stop the driver, get the best description you can and write a detailed letter to the state DMV. They can order the driver to take a driving test which he or she is almost certain to fail. If a relative who is too old to drive gets a traffic ticket, don’t help him or her get through it with trivial consequences. Instead, discuss the situation with the prosecutor before taking your relative to court to answer the charge. That way, your relative will blame the judge, not you, for taking away his or her license.

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