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ADOT’s I-17 thermal camera system helping to detect wrong-way drivers

(Arizona Department of Transportation Photo)

PHOENIX — The first-in-the-nation wrong-way vehicle detection and warning system along the Interstate 17 has proven to be a reliable way to reduce the risks posed by wrong-way drivers, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced Thursday.

The $4 million I-17 pilot system became operational in Jan. 2018 and was initially installed along the I-10 “Stack” interchange and Loop 101, according to a press release.

The thermal camera system has since detected more than 100 wrong-way drivers primarily on exit ramps and frontage roads along the Black Canyon Freeway.

ADOT said most of the drivers either turned around or pulled off the main roads once they had been detected.

The alert system aims to obtain drivers’ attention via internally illuminated wrong-way signs that utilize flashing LED lights.

Immediate alerts are also sent to law enforcement once a wrong-way vehicle has been detected. ADOT said the alerts provide faster response times by officers compared to 911 calls from Valley drivers.

“The I-17 pilot system has delivered positive results and helped provide a road map for expanding use of technology to reduce the risk from wrong-way drivers,” ADOT Deputy Director for Transportation Dallas Hammit said in the release.

“We’re using the thermal camera technology elsewhere and have established plans for other areas, including rural locations.”

Thermal camera detection technology has also been installed at most interchanges along the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway.

Expansion of the camera system also includes current installations along Loop 303 in the West Valley and will also be included as part of the Loop 101 expansion projects.

“I want to stress that thermal cameras can’t stop someone from being a wrong-way driver,” Hammit added.

“But they are a big part of our efforts to reduce the risks associated with often-impaired wrong-way drivers.”

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