Traffic: Study on wrong-way drivers: Software could stop drivers

Study on wrong-way drivers: Software could stop drivers

A sign at a service area on the Brenner motorway warns against driving in the wrong direction on the motorway. photo

© Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa

It’s a horror idea: A wrong-way driver drives on the wrong side of the freeway and endangers himself and other road users. How could that happen? A study provides answers.

The two cars collide with a loud bang, the glass of the windscreen is scattered in thousands of pieces at the scene of the accident, and the paint splinteres. The engine blocks in both vehicles have shrunk. Anyone who sat in the driver’s seat here had no chance – despite the deployed airbag. This is how an accident that happens when a Wrong-way driver crashes his vehicle into an oncoming vehicle on the Autobahn.

“This extreme strain on the body is definitely life-threatening, if not fatal,” says Siegfried Brockmann, Head of Accident Research for Insurers (UDV).

Many seniors among the wrong-way drivers

When presenting a study on the subject of wrong-way drivers, Brockmann had two cars collide in Münster on Wednesday in a crash test at 100 km/h. The result is frightening. Brockmann finds the results of his study similarly frightening.

In many cases, therefore, wrong-way driving on motorways is started intentionally. In a third of the approximately 220 cases examined, the drivers turned around in flowing traffic. In more than 40 percent of the wrong-way drivers highlighted in the study, the wrong-way drivers are older than 75, as Brockmann explains. According to his description, confusion and dementia often play a role in the elderly, while thoughts of suicide or fleeing the police are the triggers in the young wrong-way drivers.

Brockmann is particularly concerned about the participation of older people. “That should make you think. We have to think again about seniors and the very old,” said the scientist.

For the study, Brockmann and his team evaluated the insurers’ claims files, accident information from the police and media reports. 80 percent of the approximately 220 cases on German autobahns that have now been investigated date from 2015 onwards. According to Brockmann, the official accident statistics say practically nothing about wrong-way drivers. Accidents in urban areas and, for example, with cyclists as wrong-way drivers are also reported here.

The software should stop the wrong-way driver

The most important findings: After two kilometers, around half of the wrong-way drivers are over, wrong-way drivers are almost exclusively in cars, often older drivers are behind the wheel, in more than half the wrong-way drivers drive into the wrong junction (41 percent) or service areas (11). , and two-thirds of wrong-way drivers drive in the left lane from the perspective of traffic that is traveling in the right direction. The proportion of drunk wrong-way drivers is higher among younger people (42.1 percent) than among seniors (6).

In the future, Brockmann will rely on the software in cars. “The vehicle would have to brake itself if the software noticed that the driver was driving the wrong way onto the freeway,” explains the scientist. “Stop hands” on the driveways like in Austria wouldn’t hurt. In the case of intentional wrong-way driving or dementia, however, they are ineffective.

Also conceivable are warnings that are played out via the cockpit using car software or via an app on the cell phone. According to Brockmann, there are already isolated solutions here. The only disadvantage he sees here is that if there are too many warnings about wrong-way drivers, drivers become numb and no longer take the warnings seriously.

Brockmann considers the warnings of wrong-way drivers over the radio to be useful. Driving on the extreme right and not overtaking is the right advice. The scientist also advises reducing your own speed to a maximum of 80 kilometers per hour. This would also warn and slow down other motorists and reduce your risk somewhat in the event of a collision.

Notice of the study


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