PHOENIX - The Arizona Department of Transportation says wrong-way sensors along the Interstate 17 have detected more than a dozen vehicles entering the freeway since January.
ADOT put the detection-and-warning system in place in January along 15 miles of I-17 to help deter wrong-way drivers on the freeway. As of June 11, 2018, ABC15 has reported on 15 wrong-way incidents in the Valley.
With the system monitors already in place, officials say more than 15 vehicles have been detected entering I-17 off-ramps and frontage roads. None of those vehicles entered the I-17 mainline and most drivers turned around in the correct direction on the exit ramps, ADOT says.
"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 with ADOT's Transportation Systems Management and Operations division in a media release. "The goal is reducing the risk of wrong-way crashes by saving valuable time when a wrong-way vehicle is detected."
ADOT says the $4 million system includes 90 thermal detection cameras positioned above exit ramps and the mainline of the freeway between the I-10 "Stack" interchange near downtown Phoenix to the Loop 101 interchange in north Phoenix.
They're hoping to expand the system over the next year on other freeways, including the South Mountain Freeway that's expected to open next year.
While the system cannot prevent wrong-way drivers completely, its primary goal is to quickly alert ADOT and DPS officials to wrong-way incidents and set off alarms that could prevent impaired or confused drivers from continuing in the wrong direction.
In 2017, ABC15 reported 23 wrong-way incidents on Valley freeways including almost 10 involving the I-17. So far in 2018, there have been no major wrong-way incidents reported along the I-17.
Wrong-way crashes have been a hot topic for discussion around the Valley for the past several years.
ADOT responded to criticism last year about using spike strips or similar forms of technology to help stop wrong-way drivers in the Valley.
DPS officials have also been criticized for not having specific training to deal with wrong-way incidents.
A Mesa company has created a design that they believe could also be used to put an end to the dangerous and deadly trend.
ABC15 teamed up with DrivingMBA in Scottsdale to compile some tips that could save your life if you encounter a wrong-way driver headed your way -- these include avoiding HOV or left lanes, and steering, not stopping.