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Phoenix Test Site for New System to Track Wrong-Way Drivers

A new system to track wrong-way drivers will be tested in Phoenix. Credit: Arizona Dept. of Transportation
A new system to track wrong-way drivers will be tested in Phoenix. Credit: Arizona Dept. of Transportation
November 25, 2015

PHOENIX – Interstate 17 in Phoenix is the deadliest stretch of road in Arizona when it comes to wrong-way crashes, with 26 deaths in the past decade. So, this week the Department of Transportation announced that's where it is going to test a new prototype system to track wrong-way drivers.

Arizona DOT spokesman Doug Nintzel said the sensors that are already embedded in the pavement will be able to alert police instantaneously when a driver goes the wrong way on the freeway.

"Right now, they're responding to 9-1-1 calls," Nintzel explained. "If we can speed up the process, notify officers faster, they can respond quickly and hopefully reduce the risk of a crash."

The system also will be able to put up a warning on electronic message boards above the freeway, as well as turning all on-ramp lights to red to keep more people from getting on the highway.

Nintzel said the department just finished a big study on detection systems for wrong way-driving, and the numbers are troubling.

"From 2004 through 2014, there were 245 wrong-way crashes with 91 fatalities in the state of Arizona," he said, "and about 65 percent of wrong-way drivers were documented as being impaired drivers."

The state has set aside a quarter-million dollars to build and test the prototype system over the next year. Eventually, according to Nintzel, the DOT would like to deploy it statewide.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ