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Fatal Bergen crash shows devastating impact of crossover wrecks

No fear grips highway drivers more than another vehicle crossing the median into their lane of traffic. There is little time to react and avoid a head-on collision, which are the deadliest and most violent crashes. Two steel and glass machines traveling 55-mph plus can create an incredible amount of force and destruction.

Police in Bergen are investigating a crossover wreck on Route 19 that killed both elderly drivers — Caroline F. Bianchi, 74, and Gary C. Beehler, 82. A preliminary report of the Nov. 19 crash says Bianchi was traveling south when her sport-utility vehicle crossed the centerline and collided with Beehler’s northbound sedan.

Bianchi was pronounced dead at the scene. Beehler was airlifted to the hospital and died there. Genesee County sheriff’s deputies are trying to determine why Bianchi drove into oncoming traffic.

Low occurrence, catastrophic results

Undivided highways often limit space between cars traveling in opposite directions. In the United States, wrong way crashes kill 300-400 people each year, only 1% of annual traffic fatalities. But the effects are often catastrophic.

Motorists and passengers are at risk of severe brain, spinal and internal injuries. Several factors are to blame in these wrecks. Inclement weather and slippery road conditions. Poorly engineered roads. A driver who suffers a medical emergency behind the wheel.

However, driver error accounts for most crossover accidents. These are the leading factors:

  • Speeding
  • Fatigue
  • Distractions such as texting
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Median barriers like concrete walls, metal guardrails or semi-rigid cables can reduce crossover accidents. Most, however, are limited to freeways or congested urban highways. Those may be too costly for rural counties to build and maintain.

Diligence behind the wheel

Nobody wants to hear screeching brakes and crunching metal, especially when it involves two vehicles crashing head-on. Victims often wind up in the hospital or, tragically, never go home.

Defensive driving helps but can only do so much. All motorists need to be diligent on two- or four-lane highways with no barriers. A split-second temptation to fiddle with the radio or glance at a smartphone can cause your vehicle to drift into devastation.