Wrong-way drivers on Tampa Bay interstates are not uncommon: Five other tragic cases

Two sisters and a man died Sunday morning in the fourth wrong-way crash along the same stretch of Interstate 275 in 2014.  [Florida Highway Patrol]
Two sisters and a man died Sunday morning in the fourth wrong-way crash along the same stretch of Interstate 275 in 2014. [Florida Highway Patrol]
Published Oct. 19, 2018

The death of a motorist who troopers say traveled part of the Howard Frankland Bridge in the wrong direction early Friday before colliding with another vehicle rekindles some questions:

How does someone drive for miles without realizing they've made a mistake and need to pull off the highway?

And how did they manage to get turned around in the first place?

RELATED: Wrong-way driver identified in fatal Howard Frankland crash; alcohol suspected.

A 2014 Tampa Bay Times examination following a spate of similar crashes found that the phenomenon is surprisingly common around the Tampa Bay region.

The report identified 70 incidents involving wrong-way driver entering limited-access highways over an eight-year span. And it found nearly 700 wrong-way driving incidents on local roads in 2014 alone.

The Florida Highway Patrol says there is a recurring theme uniting almost all wrong-way driving that results in crashes: The driver is almost always impaired by drugs or alcohol.

READ MORE: Data shows wrong-way crashes aren't a new phenomenon in Tampa Bay (w/video).

Troopers believe the driver in Friday's crash had been drinking.

Here are five other wrong-way driving incidents in recent years that resulted in tragedy:

• In February 2014, four University of South Florida fraternity brothers were killed near a crest on Interstate 275 when the driver of a wayward sport utility vehicle plowed into their Hyundai Sonata head-on. The driver of the SUV, a Ford Expedition traveling south in the northbound lanes, was also killed in the collision near Busch Boulevard. A video purporting to show the wrong-way driver and the aftermath of the crash was widely circulated on social media.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 5 die in wrong-way crash on I-275 in Tampa (w/video).

• Two sisters and a male passenger were killed in the early weekend hours the following September, also on I-275 but south of Bearss Avenue, after their Honda traveled south in the northbound lanes before colliding with a semitrailer truck. The Tampa women left behind a combined nine children.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Three dead in wrong-way crash on I-275.

• Later that same month, the death of a 25-year-old Tampa woman brought to 11 the number of people killed in 2014 wrong-way crashes on bay area interstates. Troopers say the woman was traveling in the wrong direction on Interstate 75 near State Road 52 in Pasco County when she was struck broadside by a semi. The driver of the truck was not injured.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Tampa woman dies in yet another wrong-way crash.

• Last Thanksgiving, a man and his pregnant fiancee were killed on I-75 near Gibsonton when they collided with a Toyota traveling north in the southbound lanes. The 21-year-old driver of the other vehicle, from Bradenton, was also killed. In a break with what is typical, an autopsy found no sign of drug or alcohol impairment on his part.

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PREVIOUS COVERAGE: No drugs. No alcohol. What caused three people to die in a wrong-way crash on I-75?.

• In 2016, a Hillsborough County man was arrested in Spain after authorities said he fled the country to avoid punishment for his part in a wrong-way collision. He was behind the wheel of a car that drove into a vehicle on I-275 near Interstate 4, killing one man and severely injuring two of his friends. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Man who fled country after fatal Tampa DUI crash gets 15 years in prison.