Arizona Department of Transportation funding study on wrong-way driving detection system

A recent report shows wrong-way crashes in Arizona have been on a steady increase since 2005.

The study by the United Civil Group Corporation for the Arizona Department of Transportation looked at the number of crashes and what can be done to prevent them.

In 2005, there were 8 fatal wrong-way accidents, but in 2007 that number jumps to 25 with 13 of them resulting in deadly outcomes.

In 2009, researchers logged 32 wrong-way crashes,16 of them fatal.

“It is difficult to say what a driver is thinking or if impairment is a factor,” said Tim Tait, a spokesperson with the Arizona Department of Transportation.

ADOT has already taken some precautions hoping to flag drivers they’re heading the wrong way.

“We have multiple signs at the entrances and exits that say wrong way. The signs have even been lowered in recent years so they're more at eye level,” Tait told ABC15.

In 1995, double sided reflectors were installed on all state roadways.

“If you're driving down the road and you see the red reflector, that’s supposed to be a sign to you that you're going the wrong way. And the road will glow red across all lanes,” described Tait

Most of us have never seen the red side of the reflectors which is a good thing.

Now ADOT is studying ways to develop a sensor system to detect when a driver has entered the roadway the wrong way.

The first part of the study or “proof of concept” was finished in March of 2013.

According to the report’s author Sarah Simpson with United Civil Group Corporation, there is a sensor that will work.

But now comes the tricky part.

“Part of the challenge is how do we get the information from the sensor that detects the wrong-way driver, how do we get that information and then get it to law enforcement and then how do we get that information to motorists on the road and the wrong-way driver.”

Simpson told ABC15 the second part of the study is already underway and is looking at several ways to alert drivers they’re about to enter the freeway in the wrong directions.

She gave an example of possible flashing lights.

Simpson says phase three of the study will look at ways to develop a system that will also alert law enforcement and oncoming traffic that a wrong-way driver is heading their way.

But until that’s developed and in place, drivers need to be alert to good old fashion “do not enter” signs and red reflectors.

Driving MBA owner Richard Wojtczak says if you encounter a wrong-way driver, “Your first priority is to get the heck out of the way."

Wojtczak said your first instinct is probably to hit the brakes, but that would just make you a bigger target.

“First thing you need to do is get yourself out of the way and that involves the steering wheel,” Wojtczak said.

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