Preventing Wrong-Way Traffic Accidents

wrong-way traffic accident prevention

It’s every driver’s worst nightmare – a car headed in the wrong direction. When wrong-way accidents occur, the results are often devastating as most collisions occur head first, with little or no warning, and at high rates of speed. Over the last year, the state has experienced a rash of wrong-way accidents, including three consecutive accidents that occurred last May in or around the Phoenix area. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, most of these accidents involve drivers who are impaired by either drugs or alcohol.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, driving the wrong-way or on the wrong side of the road, factored into 3.1 percent of all fatal crashes within the U.S (NHTSA, 2009). While that may not sound like a very big number, compared to the 1.3 million involved in other types of accidents, but it’s shocking enough to warrant attention. Especially when you consider all of the traffic control signage and medians that are in place on state highways preventing just that.

In an effort to remedy the problem, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has begun testing radar-based systems aimed at detecting wrong way drivers, in three separate locations throughout Phoenix. The systems are designed to alert highway patrol officers when a wrong way driver enters a freeway. The system also alerts other drivers through the use of freeway message boards. The test is part of a larger effect by ADOT to reduce, if not eliminate, wrong-way crashes.

In addition to the electronic system, ADOT is also considering lowering “wrong way” signs to eye level for easier viewing, as well as increasing the amount of raised pavement marking that are currently installed on select off-ramps. The markings are invisible in the correct direction of traffic, but reflect a bright red light if viewed by a wrong-way driver. While the survey ends next month, the electronic signage which is currently installed at the following locations, is expected to remain.

  • The northbound exit at Interstate 17 at Carefree Highway
  • The eastbound Interstate 10 at Ray Road
  • The northbound Loop 101, off-ramp, at Thunderbird Road

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