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Law enforcement share tips on how to protect yourself from wrong-way drivers

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Posted at 12:20 PM, Feb 15, 2023

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Hundreds of thousands of people drive over the Harbor Bridge every year.

With at least five people dead from wrong-way drivers on the Harbor Bridge in the last seven years, and an average of ten wrong-way incidents a year, according to the Portland Police Department, law enforcement officials said drivers can be proactive about their safety.

According to Corpus Christi Police Department crash reports, head-on crashes caused by wrong-way drivers on the Harbor Bridge occur most often in the left lane.

Law enforcement said this is because intoxicated drivers driving the wrong way believe they are in the slow lane, or the right lane, when they are in the left lane of the highway.

Julie Gatheral was killed in 2015 by a wrong-way driver on the Harbor Bridge.

"Late at night if you stay in the middle lane or even the outside lane of the highway if there is a wrong-way driver you have less of a chance of getting hit head-on because these people are thinking they're driving in the slow lane, right, but in reality, it's going to be your insider people, call it your fast lane," Ronnie Owen, Portland Police Department Lt. said.

READ MORE: Police put lives on line to stop wrong-way drivers

San Patricio County Sheriff Oscar Rivera said he cautions all his staff to drive in the right lane, to avoid potential calamity.

“I’m so mindful of telling people that if you are going to Corpus Christi, stay on the right lanes, stay on the outside lane. Hopefully, you won’t meet somebody head-on and they will be on the left lane going in your direction, you at least take a chance at survival," Rivera said. "In particular cases like the causeway when you are going uphill, you have no idea what’s coming up the other side."

Crash reports reveal that these fatal wrong-way crashes also occurred most often at night.

Experts said that by limiting driving over the Harbor Bridge to daytime hours, people can reduce the risk of encouraging these incidents.

They also said that reducing speed, especially over the blind "humps," helps boost reaction speed to help respond to potential wrong-way drivers.

READ MORE: Wrong-way fix not a fix for all

KRIS 6 News asked TxDOT a series of questions about safety related to these exit ramps, any ongoing plans to make these exits safer, and any action taken by TxDOT following fatalities in 2015, 2020, and 2022. We also requested an interview with TxDOT executive director Marc Williams.

TxDOT did not respond to our questions by the time part one aired on Feb. 15. On Wednesday, TxDOT answered.But, rather than answering the questions provided, the state agency provided a statement and said all questions were addressed.

To report issues or any complaints with roadways managed by the Texas Department of Transportation, click here.

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