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Federal official says GPS alerts could reduce Arizona wrong-way driving

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — A federal official says he thinks GPS alerts could help cut down on wrong-way driving incidents in Arizona and the rest of the nation.

Robert Molloy, director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Highway Safety, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday that wrong-way driving isn’t unique to the state.

“The reality is this is a nationwide problem,” he said. “Three hundred … people a year will lose their lives in wrong-way crashes.”

Molloy said solutions his office has been working on include advocating for GPS alerts in car systems and cellphones.

“When we’re getting ready to make a turn to go a certain direction, the GPS knows pretty well where we are,” he said.

“So we actually recommended that manufacturers of GPS systems and vehicle manufacturers put alerts in cars, so if you turn to go the wrong way down a road, it will actually give you an alert.”

Another solution, Molloy said, could be to improve signage.

“Older drivers tend to go to the wrong way on roads more often that others,” he said.

“So putting in extra warning signs when’s that possible … instead of just the normal wrong-way, put it on two levels, so it’s lower, so they see it more easily than the higher signs.”

One of the biggest problems to overcome is combating drunk driving. Molloy said two-thirds of drivers involved in wrong-way accidents are impaired.

He said his office has recommended lowering the legal blood alcohol content to 0.05%. It’s currently 0.08% in Arizona.

But sometimes, Molloy said, the problem simply comes down to the design of the roadway.

“When you’re dealing with a normal entrance ramp, that’s … very shallow, you go into a long curve, that’s unlikely that someone’s going to go (the wrong way) on that road,” he said.

“But if you have a 90-degree turn … that’s a place where people often enter the wrong way on the roadway.”

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