How to stay alive if a wrong-way driver comes at you

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Simulation of a wrong-way driving situation (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Simulation of a wrong-way driving situation (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The owners of a Scottsdale driver-training school have created wrong-way driving scenarios for their simulator to help combat the onslaught of wrong-way driving crashes happening throughout the state.

Richard and Maria Wojtczak own Driving MBA, which offers driver education to students of all ages.

In 2016, when several critical wrong-way driving crashes occurred within a short period of time, the Wojtczaks decided they needed to add techniques for dealing with wrong-way drivers to their program. 

“We keep working on new scenarios. So, we’re continually improving our programs and so the wrong-way drivers, we continue to make sure we incorporate that into the curriculum," Maria explained

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Richard demonstrated a couple of those scenarios, explaining that they are designed to give the student driver a true sense of what it’s like to have a car coning straight at you.

“All the sudden I see somebody coming at me. First thing I’ve got to do is get way over. Keep under control. Keep calm and get out of the way,” said Richard. 

The key, according to the experts, is to be positioned for anything before something happens.

“We teach a concept called strategic driving," Maria said. "Pay attention. Look what’s going on around you so you can keep your head in the game. It’s staggering yourself so that you know that if anything happens you’ve got an out on one side or the other. You’ve got to pay attention and you’ve got to pace yourself to make that happen.”

The ideal situation is to be staggered with other traffic. If a wrong-way driver approaches, slow down and move as far to the right as possible. The left is not a great option because if the wrong-way driver suddenly sees you, his or her instinct would be to move to their right, thus creating a head-on collision with you, according to the Wojtczak’s.

“The whole point of using the simulator is to create the experience ahead of time so that they’re not ad libbing at 70 miles an hour,” Richard said.

If you’re in a situation where a wrong-way driver is coming up on you, there will not be much time.

“This is why distracted driving is a problem," Maria said. "If you have something like this, this is catastrophic. If you’re not paying attention you won’t have the wherewithal to really handle the situation. So being in the game of driving, which is not easy when we’re behind the wheel of the car, is really important for us to stay focused.”

If you are boxed in and your only choice is to side-swipe a car or get hit by the wrong-way driver, Richard says your chances of survival are better with the sideswipe. 

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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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