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Wrong-way crashes are a trend heading in the wrong direction across Wisconsin

"We saw the third highest increase - about six times higher than the nation average increase"
Wrong Way Sign
Posted at 5:09 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 19:21:13-04

MILWUAKEE — Wrong way crashes are a trend heading in the wrong direction in Wisconsin.

This is the reality after a wrong-way crash that happened during the overnight hours on Wednesday. 27-year-old Ivy Caldwell died when she drove the wrong-way on I-43 just south of Chase Avenue, crashing into 19-year-old Tyler Anderson's vehicle. He died too.

This crash comes as the most recent numbers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety show there was an average of 500 fatal wrong-way crashes per year across the country from 2015 until 2018. That's up 34% annually from 2010 to 2014.

"There is a national trend of increases in wrong-way, head-on collisions like this. And in particular, in Wisconsin, we saw the third highest increase - about six times higher than the nation average increase," said Nick Jarmusz, Director of Public Affairs for AAA.

Wisconsin's Department of Transportation says these are the types of crashes they intentionally try to prevent.

"In a situation like last night, and I don't have the details of that, but we need to look at is this a location that frequently sees something like that happening? Is this something due to the driver's condition?" said Michael Pyritz, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Southeast Region.

He says wrong-way drivers often self-correct quickly. While it is unclear why Cladwell was going the wrong way on I-43, Pyritz says when it comes to deadly crashes, alcohol or drugs are often a factor.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people make decisions that are not appropriate. [They] get behind the wheel when they shouldn't be behind the wheel, and even with the signs and the blinking lights and everything else sometimes, they get behind the wheel. That in the end can be very costly," said Pyritz. 

In addition to wrong-way signs that line entrance ramps, a technology called BlinkLink has been installed at 20 Milwaukee-area interstate ramps - primarily in high-risk locations where drivers are more likely to be confused.

"What that system does, it alerts our traffic management center that a wrong-way driver has been detected and instantly that information goes to the Milwaukee County Sheriff. At the same time it goes to us in the State Patrol. So that information all comes together at the same time," said Pyritz.

The ramps near the crash on Wednesday were not supported by BlinkLink.

Milwaukee County's Office of Emergency Management tells TMJ4's Ryan Jenkins that their first notification in this incident was not for a wrong-way driver, but for an accident that had already occurred.

Officials say if you ever encounter a wrong-way driver, get out of the way of the oncoming traffic and call 9-1-1 immediately.

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