FHP offers tips on avoiding wrong-way accidents

- We've seen it time and time again across Tampa Bay. Wrong-way driver incidents have spiked over the past several years both locally and through out the nation.

Most recently, on March 12, Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy John Kotfila was killed in a head-on collision involving a wrong-way driver on the Selmon Expressway.

Many drivers are unfamiliar with what to do if a vehicle going the wrong way is in their lane of travel.

“You have a very short period of time to react to a wrong way driver," said Sgt. Steve Gaskins with Florida Highway Patrol.

The most important thing a driver can do, according to troopers, is swerve out of the way. Even if your car is hit at an angle, it can cause less damage.

“That could save your life right there alone, where the energy involved in the crash is deflected to the side of the car and not full force onto you," explained Gaskins.

Troopers share a motto with drivers: Stay Right at Night.

Drunk and impaired drivers often think they are on a two-way road.

“They believe ‘I’m in the far right lane,' because that’s the habit that we drive here in the United States, in the right, outside lane which, to the correct driver, is the left lane, the fast lane, the passing lane," said Gaskins.

FHP posts warnings on electronic billboards letting drivers know when someone is going the wrong way on their highway.

“Those drivers can make a decision and say, you know what, maybe I’ll go ahead and exit right here until the problem passes," said Gaskins.

The signs, however, are set to trigger on a large stretch of the highway, possibly for miles. They are taken down once authorities locate the wrong way driver or determine the threat is over.

The best thing drivers can do is to stay alert by putting down distractions.

“Pay attention so you can see those headlights coming at you from as far away as possible," said Gaskins.

FHP is currently working to install 80 wrong way signs throughout Tampa Bay. They will be equipped with flashing lights to alert wrong way drivers and cameras, which will allow authorities to see the make and model of the car and determine the direction the wrong-way driver is traveling.

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