How Did 2 Wrong-Way Drivers Get On Eisenhower Overnight And Cause Crashes?

Illinois State Police on Monday afternoon were trying to figure out how two wrong-way drivers ended up on the Eisenhower Expressway – causing crashes that left a total of five people dead. CBS 2's Tara Molina reports.

Video Transcript

BRAD EDWARDS: Good Monday afternoon. I'm Brad Edwards. Developing right now, state police trying to figure out how two wrong-way drivers ended up on the Eisenhower Expressway, both going outbound in the inbound lanes. One ended up in a head-on fiery crash off Des Plaines Avenue in Forrest Park. The other crashed near the Jane Byrne interchange. That's near where our Tara Molina is right now. Tara?

TARA MOLINA: Brad, five people were killed in these two crashes. We're still trying to learn more about what led up to them, but all Illinois State Police will tell us right now is this is still an active, ongoing investigation. So it's not clear where those runaway drivers entered the expressway, what ramp or entrance they used, and what signage is posted there now.

Tough to take in. This is the aftermath of the first wrong-way crash on the Ike just before 1:15 this morning in Forrest Park, where, according to ISP, the driver of this black Honda, driving the wrong way on 290 Eastbound at Des Plaines, hit this silver Infinity. Both drivers died. The passenger in the Infinity was taken to the hospital without severe injuries.

And just about 20 minutes later a few miles away, the driver of this black Land Rover drove down Interstate 290 Westbound the wrong way, hitting the Ford Edge in the right lane, causing it to spin out and hit the Ford Escape. The crash killed the wrong-way driver and the driver and passenger in the car hit directly. The driver and two passengers in the third car rushed to the hospital without life-threatening injuries.

Right now, ISP won't say if these two crashes have more in common than timing and location or what's being done to prevent another.

HUAGUO ZHOU: Fatality rates, wrong-way crashes much higher than the others.

TARA MOLINA: Enter Dr. Huaguo Zhuo. He studied wrong-way crashes for years and prepared a study here in Illinois on reducing them. We asked him about these.

HUAGUO ZHOU: So this is a very typical pattern compared to the history of fatal crash data.

TARA MOLINA: Because of when and where these wrong-way crashes happened, early morning on a major roadway. Dr. Zhou told me about 60% of wrong-way drivers are under the influence. It's not clear if that was the case here. As for how drivers can protect themselves, he says that can be difficult, so awareness is key.

HUAGUO ZHOU: During nighttime you may not be able to-- to judge the distance because that approach and speed is much faster.

TARA MOLINA: We've been checking in with ISP throughout the day, still waiting on more information from them as they investigate. And I had to file a public records request with them just to try to get more information on these wrong-way crashes across the state. They did not have that information readily available.

Reporting for CBS2 off the Expressway today, I'm Tara Molina, CBS2 News. Brad?