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Driving the Wrong Way on a One-Way Road: Legal Consequences

By Molly Zilli, Esq. | Last updated on

There's an old joke about senior citizens and driving. Jim is travelling home on the freeway when his wife calls and says she heard on the radio that there's a car driving the wrong way on Route 80. "It's not just one car! It's hundreds of them!" he exclaims.

But the truth is, accidentally driving down a one-way road can happen to even the most vigilant of drivers, especially if you don't live or work in a city with one-way roads. You turn down a quiet street only to realize your mistake when you see nothing but headlights blocking your path. It can be a simple, correctable mistake, or it can have devastating effects. So, what are the legal consequences for driving the wrong way down a one-way road?

A Warning or a Fine

The legal consequences for heading the wrong way down a one-way road are going to vary depending on what state you live in, the circumstances surrounding your mistake, and the defense you present to the court, if it comes to that. If it was a simple, quick mistake with no complicating factors (like injuries or intoxication), an officer may let you off with a warning. If not, you could at least be looking at a fine and points on your record (with increased insurance rates to boot). Too many points on your driving record can lead to a license suspension.

Jail Time and License Suspensions

However, you could face much more serious legal consequences for heading down a one-way road if there are complicating factors. If you crashed into another car, caused a fatality, or were simply too drunk to realize your mistake, you could be looking at fines, jail time, and a license suspension or revocation. And those are just the criminal consequences. If you injured someone or damaged property, you could also be hit with a civil lawsuit.


If you have been accused of driving the wrong way down a one-way road, you should consult an attorney. There may be mitigating circumstances which can reduce the legal consequences of your mistake. For example, maybe the signage was confusing, there was poor lighting, or trees covered the relevant signs, etc. Even if the charges aren't dropped, an experienced attorney can help get fines or other penalties reduced.

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