Stay Right At Night could protect you from wrong-way drivers

- If you're a driver in the Bay Area, you're unfortunately familiar with the dangers of wrong-way drivers.

With the number of deaths caused by wrong-way driving on the rise, the state is making an extra push this month to stop the trend.

During July, Wrong Way Driving Awareness Month, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is pushing the message: Stay Right at Night.

The slogan refers to driving in the furthest right hand lane possible.

Statistics show most fatal crashes happen in the center or left lanes because wrong-way drivers think they are on the right side. Driving in the right lane could keep you from a wrong-way driver's path

According to FLHSMV there were 1,490 wrong way crashes in the state last year, and 96 people were killed. 

Additionally, Hillsborough County ranked third highest in the state, behind Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties, with 129 wrong-way crashes and six deaths.
  
Offenders are not all drunk drivers, either. Stats show more than half of wrong-way drivers were reported to be "normal," in terms of being under the influence.

"I've seen cops waiting to catch people and they are riding the wrong way totally down the street," said Marcus Oliver. "I had no idea that it was just that common. That's pretty unbelievable, actually. Wow, wow, wow."

Even coming from a much larger city, Laureen Zizzo said she sometimes finds herself scared on the road.

"I do a lot of traveling between Polk and Hillsborough County," Zizzo said. "275, I-4, and the driving here, compared to where I am from in New York, is very scary sometimes."

Sadly, even law enforcement officers are not immune to the danger. March 12, a wrong-way driver killed Hillsborough County deputy John Kotfila on the Selmon Expressway. A witness said Kotfila heroically swerved in front of her to block the other car.

While it's hard to stop all wrong-way drivers, state officials say one of your best defenses is to stay alert, don't drive distracted and immediately report any wrong-way drivers.

Rufus Parker follows those rules and more.

"Driving defensively, always watching what you are doing, staying off your phone and always looking ahead," Parker said.
  
The Florida Department of Transportation is implementing a variety of safeguards against wrong way drivers, including wrong way signage, roadway reflectors, large painted pavement markings to help motorists identify the proper entrance and exit ramps on the interstate, flashing signs at exit ramps with radar detection, and emergency alert signage when wrong way drivers are detected.

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