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Wrong-way drivers: statistically rare, often drunk

"Oh, my God, what's going on behind me?"

That is the alarming thought that pulsed through the head of a Colorado motorist late last month after she luckily drove safely past a drunk driver barreling down I-25 on the wrong side of the road in Pueblo County in the evening hours.

Her luck was not repeated for other motorists trailing her, who were struck by the inebriated driver -- who was additionally driving without his headlights on. The drunk driver struck two vehicles, with several people needing to be taken to a hospital for treatment of their injuries. Thankfully, none of those persons died. The drunk motorist was also transported to a medical facility for treatment of severe injuries.

How common is such driving behavior in Colorado and nationally, and how often does wrong-way driving lead to serious injuries and wrongful death outcomes for other drivers out on the road?

Ironically, three people died within a week of that accident after being struck by a wrong-way driver, with that tragic crash also occurring in Pueblo County.

A relatively recent study authored by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that, while wrong-way driving is a catalyst in only about 3 percent of all fatal crashes that occur in the United States, a majority of motorists driving the wrong way who cause accidents are, sadly, drunk.

A recent media focus on wrong-way drunk driving in Colorado notes that 2016 was "a particularly deadly year on Colorado highways" generally. Official safety statistics indicate that, as of December 19 last year, 526 people had died in motor vehicle accidents occurring within the state.

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