Program ongoing to decrease wrong-way freeway driving in Phoenix area
PHOENIX – The Arizona agency responsible for managing the highway system said Thursday there were still a few months to go before it completed a lengthy evaluation of the pilot program designed to cut down on the number of wrong-way crashes.
The Arizona Department of Transportation’s 90 thermal imaging cameras have detected more than 70 wrong-way drivers at Phoenix-area freeway off-ramps since going online in January 2018.
The $4 million detection and warning system’s cameras were placed along a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 17 through Phoenix between the Interstate 10 and Loop 101 interchanges.
Three wrong-way drivers have been caught on Phoenix-area freeways since Sunday but not before one of them slammed into a car on Loop 101 in Glendale near Union Hills Drive, killing the second driver.
An ADOT spokesman said in an email Thursday to KTAR News 92.3 FM that it was “important to note that wrong-way technology, including thermal cameras, cannot prevent someone from being a wrong-way driver, nor is it designed to physically prevent crashes.”
The system detects when a vehicle is driving against traffic on an off-ramp or frontage road.
When the system is triggered, wrong-way signs with flashing red lights come on in an attempt to get the driver’s attention.
The system also alerts ADOT, which puts “Wrong Way Driver/Ahead/Exit Freeway” warnings on its overhead message boards, and the Department of Public Safety.
ADOT has also added larger wrong-way signs at many freeway interchanges across the state and lowered them.
There are plans to add more signs.
Officials planned to use the research from the pilot program to determine “which countermeasures can be used elsewhere.”
The department expected to finish the evaluation by the end of the year.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.