Wrong-way crashes have been a critical issue in Arizona for many years. A fatal wrong-way crash occurred just last Sunday on I-10 near Casa Grande.
The Arizona Department of Transportation has promoted their new wrong way driving detection system lately. The $4 million detection system is installed on a small stretch of I-17 in Phoenix.
According to a story by AZfamily.com, “The Arizona Department Transportation is optimistic about how well its wrong-way detection system is performing in tests. In a statement, the agency says the alert system is “promising.”
“Detecting” wrong way drivers are not the problem. ADOT’s traffic operations center has video cameras that monitor most valley freeways. They see (“detect”) wrong way drivers all the time.
There are two more significant problems/challenges involving wrong-way drivers: 1) prevention and 2) warning other drivers.
It appears that many Arizona ramp designs are confusing, promoting wrong way entries. Several studies suggest that specific ramp designs, used in Arizona, are more likely to confuse drivers. ADOT has announced plans to redesign several highway on ramps around the state.
According to an article on SupportDeerValley.com, “ADOT has said that the overall goal of the diverging diamond interchange is to reduce the possibility of wrong-way drivers.” At least 29 states have constructed diverging diamond interchanges since 2009. A study by the state of Missouri showed a drastic reduction in the number of serious crashes at these interchanges.
In 2017, three young people died when a drunk driver entered I-17 going the wrong way, from the Happy Valley interchange.
There are technologies out there to warn downstream motorists of an approaching wrong way driver automatically.
ADOT doesn’t use this technology. However, they do have a phone app, ADOT Alerts, that could alert a motorist of an oncoming wrong way driver but it would be highly unsafe for a driver to check an alert while driving.
Despite years of “study” by ADOT, there are no plans to address wrong-way driving issues in Tucson or in and around the rest of the state of Arizona.
ADOT makes much ado about nothing when it boasts about detecting wrong-way drivers. Detection isn’t the problem.