A wrong-way-driver detection system installed along 15 miles of I-17 in Phoenix shows promise so far, the Arizona Department of Transportation says.
“Out of the more than 15 incidents (since the system went active in January) where vehicles have been detected entering an off-ramp in the wrong direction, the majority of the drivers ‘self-corrected’ (turned around),” ADOT spokesperson Doug Nintzel told North Phoenix News. “We’re not aware of any wrong-way vehicles entering I-17’s mainline lanes since the system was considered operational in early January.”
The pilot project involves 90 thermal-detection cameras above exit ramps from the Loop 101 interchange south to the I-10 Stack. “When a wrong-way vehicle is detected entering one of the off-ramps, the background of the specialized sign lights up and red LED lights flash around its borders,” Nintzel explained.
The idea is to capture the attention of drivers who are impaired, “often severely,” ADOT said in a statement. The agency has also installed additional Wrong Way signs along the same stretch of freeway.
“While the system can’t prevent people from driving while impaired, the results so far are promising as a countermeasure to this deadly behavior,” said Brent Cain, head of ADOT’s Transportation Systems Management and Operations division.
“It is designed to reduce the risk by immediately alerting DPS and ADOT to the detection of a wrong-way vehicle on an off-ramp,” Nintzel explained. “A fast detection can help law enforcement respond sooner (rather than have the first notification be a 911 call) and lets ADOT alert other drivers with warnings on message boards in the area. Time is a key factor in reducing the risk of a tragic crash.”
ADOT plans to evaluate the pilot project’s performance “over approximately the next year while it looks toward using it on other freeways,” the agency said.
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