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New Wrong-Way Detection System Approved by Transportation Board

June 30, 2017 | Filed under: safety tips

June 29th ─ the state Transportation Board of Arizona has approved a nearly $3.7 million project towards the construction of a thermal detection system that will stretch 15 mile along Interstate-17. The thermal detection system will detect wrong-way vehicles on the Phoenix freeway. The system, according to a statement released by the Transportation Board, will do three things: 1) Alert wrong-way drivers to pull over and turn around. 2) Warn right-way drivers to pull over to evade collisions. 3) Notify law enforcement. When a wrong-way driver is detected by a thermal camera, alerts will be triggered which include illuminated signs with flashing lights. Ramp meters will also show a constant red signal to stop or hold traffic from entering the freeway. The system will warn other drivers making use of overhead message boards along the Interstate-17.

Traffic cameras will automatically turn to track the wrong-way driver. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) says construction is slated to begin in the fall on Interstate-17 from the Interstate-10 to the Loop 101. The installation is expected to take seven months. Performance of the program on the 15 mile stretch of the Interstate 17 will help ADOT determine how to further the project. "It's not going to stop the vehicle but what it will do is detect locate and track the vehicle so DPS and law enforcement can do a quicker response," said Jim Windsor, Department engineer for the state.

The state has had a rise in wrong-way drivers, since the beginning of 2017 there has been 53 wrong-way accidents with around 28 of them resulting in fatalities. According to ADOT’s annual Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report, 962 people have been killed in motor vehicle crashes as of 2016. That’s 65 more than last year and a 7.3 percent increase. The most recent wrong-way fatality was on June 7th when two men were killed during a wrong-way collision on “The Mini-Stack,” where eastbound I-10 merges with southbound State Route (SR-) 51 and the Red Mountain part of Loop 202 in the Phoenix metropolitan area. That accident prompted Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to instruct ADOT to speed up deployment of the system. The project still needs approval from the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Council.

The detection system is entirely new and there are still concerns associated with it. Most notably is the fact that this is a detection system to deter errant drivers not a prevention system that will stop these kinds of accidents. A spokesperson for ADOT admitted in a recent press release to unveil the new detection system that, “This system can reduce the risk, but it can’t prevent wrong-way driving”.

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