Why Not Install Spikes to Keep Wrong-Way Drivers Off Freeways?

Last year, the Arizona Department of Public Safety got some 1,600 calls about wrong-way drivers. In the first six months of the year, 14 of the 840 instances resulted in deaths or serious injuries.

Meanwhile, ADOT says hundreds of people have asked why the state doesn’t just install metal spikes to prevent wrong-way drivers from getting on a freeway.

In a blog post today, ADOT gave 11 reason why spikes aren’t used, ranging from “slippery when wet” to “not guaranteed to blow the tires of vehicles traveling at high speeds.” And the spikes can break, “leaving stubs that damage tires of vehicles traveling in the right direction,” wrote ADOT spokesperson Gant Wegner. They’re also “dangerous to motorcycles and small cars.” [See the full list of reasons below.]

The reasoning is supported by studies, Wegner wrote, adding that “there is no place in the world where spikes are used on highway systems.”

Meanwhile, ADOT officials say the agency has installed larger and lower “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs in better view of drivers at dozens of ramps. It’s also added wrong-way pavement arrows outlined by red reflectors and is testing vehicle sensor technology that could alert motorists and state troopers to an offender.

DPS officials say wrong-way drivers tend to use the far-left and HOV lanes, so they advise drivers in the early morning hours — when most wrong-way collisions occur — to use the middle lanes.


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Here is the full list of reasons not to install spikes, according to ADOT:

  • No available system is designed for speeds faster than 5 mph.
  • Not for use in high-volume traffic.
  • Not guaranteed to blow the tires of vehicles traveling at high speeds.
  • Can break, leaving stubs that damage tires of vehicles traveling in the right direction.
  • Cause drivers going in the right direction to see the spikes as a road hazard, causing brake lights, slow traffic and backups.
  • Dangerous to motorcycles and small cars.
  • Prone to getting clogged with dirt and snow.
  • Slippery when wet.
  • Require excessive maintenance — must be visually monitored and maintained 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure to safe operation.
  • Failure of the system could result in damage to a vehicle traveling in the right direction and harm to that driver.
  • Not compliant with the nationally accepted traffic control device guidelines.

This article, first published March 22, was updated June 7, 2017.


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North Phoenix News staff writers and editors often work together to produce articles like this one.

Staff Writers

North Phoenix News staff writers and editors often work together to produce articles like this one.

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