The Arizona Department of Transportation was honored in Washington, D.C., last month for its wrong-way driver detection system being tested on Interstate 17 in Phoenix.
ADOT’s project is one of seven in the United States to receive the 2019 National Roadway Safety Award from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Roadway Safety Foundation, which recognizes roadway safety achievements that move the U.S. toward zero vehicle-related deaths or serious injuries.
“I’m gratified that the hard work of our team in developing this first-in-the-nation system is recognized,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said.
“This award acknowledges a key part of Arizona’s aggressive, coordinated response to reduce the risk of serious crashes caused by wrong-way drivers and make our roads safer,” Gov. Doug Ducey said.
The $4 million system is the first of its kind in the nation. It was installed along 15 miles of I-17 and uses 90 thermal cameras to detect and track wrong-way drivers entering off-ramps or traveling along I-17, immediately alerting ADOT and the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Wrong-way driving incidents have only been increasing in Arizona in recent years. From Jan. 1 to mid-August of this year, there were 1,175 wrong-way incidents in the state, up from 1,057 during the same time in 2018, according to numbers from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
A wrong-way driver injured two Tempe police officers earlier this week, colliding with their vehicles on State Route 51 in the early morning hours of Nov. 4.
“The results have been promising as we work to reduce risks associated with often-impaired wrong-way drivers,” Halikowski said.
ADOT’s system is intended to save DPS troopers valuable time responding to incidents rather than waiting for 911 calls from other motorists. The system also lets ADOT post immediate alerts to drivers on lighted signs overhead. Detection also triggers illuminated wrong-way signs with flashing red lights to try and get the wrong-way driver’s attention.
“In addition to innovative engineering that’s leading the nation, we’ve increased penalties for those who drive the wrong way while impaired and invested in having more state troopers patrolling during nighttime hours, when wrong-way driving occurs most,” Ducey said.
Since the system was installed in early 2018, it has detected more than 90 wrong-way driving incidents.
ADOT said it is completing an evaluation of the system to determine which elements can be used on other freeways, including Loop 202.
“We have more work to do, and improving safety for all our road users will continue to be a priority,” Ducey said.
Photo by Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons.