The tragic death of a New York City detective killed on the Sprain Brook Parkway in Westchester illustrates how driving drunk can cause horrific accidents. The detective, who was planning to retire later this year, leaves behind a wife and 13-year old daughter.
The detective was killed by a wrong way driver. This type of accident is shockingly common on the parkways and highways in and around New York. In addition to the most recent incident, which occurred on Friday, February 26 in the early morning hours as the police officer was on his way to work in Queens, there have been several other wrong-way fatalities and injuries in recent years.
November 2014 a Deadly Month
Last November, a mother of three was killed in While Plains while delivering newspapers in the early morning hours. The driver of the other car, an of-duty White Plains firefighter, was found to be intoxicated when he hit the Honda so hard that it spun around and travelled 200 feet backwards. It was later revealed that the firefighter had an earlier DWI conviction.
In the same month, a wrong way crash on Route 109 on Long Island killed a 46-year old woman who was found to alcohol in the vehicle. The crash also killed the other driver, a 70-year-old woman from East Islip, NY. A third wrong way crash last November killed a young man on the Southern State Parkway in Suffolk County. At the time, officials speculated that fog could have been a factor.
August Another Bad Month
November 2014 was a bad month for wrong way accidents. Another bad month was August 2014. One crash in August occurred on the New York State Thruway in near Suffern on the New Jersey border. The crash was caused by an off-duty police officer who was travelling the wrong way. He died, as did the driver of the other car. The officer was later found to have a blood alcohol content of nearly three times the legal limit of .08.
Although the accident had occurred months before, in August 2014 a Staten Island man pled guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and other charges when he caused an accident on the Staten Island Expressway while driving the wrong way. The accident killed a passenger in the other car. The man was found to have a blood alcohol level of .24 percent.
Driving Drunk the Primary Cause of Wrong Way Crashes
Alcohol was involved in most of these accidents. And (again in November 2014), a study conducted by a Florida newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, showed that drunk driving is a primary cause of many wrong way accidents. And drunk driving is involved in almost all fatal wrong way crashes.
Officers in the Tampa Bay area responded to more than 70 reports of wrong way driving between 2007 and 2014. Although some have speculated that poor engineering or signage was a contributing factor in such crashes, a spokesman for the Florida State Patrol noted that if this were the case, everyone would be driving the wrong way.
Reduced Visibility a Contributing Factor
The Florida investigation found that most of the drunk drivers who caused one way crashes had previous DUI convictions. The other contributing factor appeared to be time of day – most of the Tampa-area crashes occurred in the late evening or early morning hours. The combination of reduced visibility and alcohol impairment is particularly deadly.