Two incidents on Woodward Avenue in Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham during the past week are local examples of what a new national study concluded about wrong-way crashes.
On average, 360 people die each year in wrong-way collisions, researchers with the National Transportation Safety Board found. And the majority of those crashes, nearly 60 percent, involve alcohol.
The study analyzed data from more than 1,500 crashes between 2004 and 2009. In 59 percent of the accidents, wrong-way drivers had blood alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit, researchers said. In another 10 percent of the crashes, drivers had alcohol levels between .08 and .14. The limit in most instances is .08.
Officials with the Bloomfield Hills Department of Public Safety responded to a head-on collision on Woodward Avenue near Lone Pine Road at about 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12, transporting both drivers to the hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, reports state.
The crash remains under investigation, but police said the initial review shows a vehicle driven by a 20-year-old Rochester Hills man was southbound in the northbound lanes of Woodward Avenue and sideswiped one vehicle before the head-on crash. Police said alcohol was a factor in the crash and that charges are pending.
Birmingham Police then arrested a 37-year-old Royal Oak woman for drunk driving near Woodward and Oak shortly after midnight on Thursday, Dec. 13. The woman was driving north in the southbound lane of Woodward and police say her blood alcohol concentration was more than twice the legal limit.
Bloomfield Hills DPS Chief Rick Matott said the department doesn't typically issue news releases on crashes unless they involve fatalities, but he was aware of the recent NTSB study and thought it was important to share the information.
To address the problem, the NTSB is considering recommending all states require convicted first-time drunken-driving offenders use ignition interlock devices that test their breath for alcohol concentration in order to drive, the Detroit News reported. The dashboard devices won't let the engine start if the driver's alcohol concentration is too high. Seventeen states already require the devices.