ADOT Develops Technology to Warn Wrong-Way Drivers

Sept. 21, 2022
300 wrong-way drivers have been detected since 2018

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has developed the first of its kind technology that is warning wrong-way drivers, after a great deal of incidents pushed the department to find a solution. 

ADOT's Doug Nintzel told ABC15, "We really couldn't take it anymore. We needed to do something."

The department wanted to warn not only other drivers about the wrong-way drivers entering the freeway, but law enforcement as well.

According to Nintzel, the department discovered that thermal cameras can detect drivers going in the inverse direction. On top of the cameras, ADOT said they have added larger wrong-way signs and lowered them. Some even light up to catch a driver's attention. Arrows have been added to the pavement, as well.

"It is amazing... something this small can then have a focus across a pretty wide ray or across the entire expansive, an off-ramp, or even the lanes of the freeway itself, and they can detect very reliably that a vehicle is traveling in the wrong direction," Nintzel explained.

Out of this, the I-17 Wrong-Way Detection Pilot Program was then developed and began back in 2018. It was the first in the nation to be able to detect wrong-way drivers in real time.

According to ADOT, the cameras have detected more than 300 wrong-way drivers since 2018. 

"This is all about alerting us down at the Traffic Operations Center and alerting law enforcement," Nintzel explained. "It's not the same as waiting for 911 calls to come in from other drivers out on the freeway. We get an instant alert."

An analysis from ADOT found that 25% of all wrong-way crashes were fatal in Arizona compared to just 1% of overall crashes on divided highways. When a wrong-way crash occurs, it is more likely to cause more damage.

Unfortunately, ADOT has not been able to duplicate the process due to funding. Nintzel said they are in communication with the Maricopa Association of Governments to look at identifying funding options.

"Well, the good news on this is that some of our construction projects, we are able to set aside the funds to add thermal cameras at off-ramps within those areas."

The department wants to stress this is a detection system, not a prevention system. It is not foolproof and drivers have to make the right decision out on the roadways with a majority of these wrong-way incidents resulting from impairment.


Source: ABC15

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