Home Travel I-17 warning system detects first wrong-way driver on travel lanes

I-17 warning system detects first wrong-way driver on travel lanes


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The wrong-way detection system on I-17 detected its first wrong-way driver in travel lanes early Thursday morning.
Arizona Republic

The wrong-way driver detection and warning system being tested along 15 miles of Interstate 17 in Phoenix alerted officials early Thursday to a wrong-way driver who later was stopped on suspicion of DUI, state officials said.

An alert sounded at 1:11 a.m. that a wrong-way vehicle was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of I-17 at Union Hills Road, between Loop 101 and Bell Road, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety.

The vehicle exited shortly after the detection, then turned around an entered I-17 the right way, ADOT said.

Traffic operators and DPS continued to track the vehicle, whose driver later was stopped by a trooper and arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence,  ADOT said in a press release.

The incident was the first in which a vehicle was detected on I-17 travel lanes in Phoenix since the wrong-way system went into operation in January.

The $4 million system includes 90 thermal detection cameras positioned above exit ramps and the mainline of the freeway between the I-10 “Stack” interchange near downtown Phoenix to the Loop 101 interchange about 15 miles to the north, according to ADOT.

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Arizona’s Department of Transportation has a new $3.7 million wrong-way driver technology in action, which uses thermal camera detection.
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A detection by this system, that is the first of its kind in the nation according to ADOT, sets off a loud horn in ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center and provides a video of the driver and other data about the vehicle. This allows traffic operators to quickly warn other drivers on overhead message boards.

If the detection is at an off-ramp, an illuminated wrong-way sign with red flashing lights will activate, ADOT said. It is positioned along the ramp to attract the attention of wrong-way drivers, most of whom are impaired, officials said.

In addition to Thursday’s detection, the system has detected more than 20 vehicles entering I-17 off-ramps and frontage roads in the wrong direction, ADOT said. However, none of these other vehicles is believed to have entered I-17 travel lanes, as the majority of drivers turn around on exit ramps.

ADOT said it is looking at adding a wrong-way system to other freeways, including a planned installation of the system along the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway that is scheduled to open in late 2019.

Technology such as the I-17 thermal camera system, however, cannot prevent all wrong-way crashes from happening, ADOT said.

At least 14 wrong-way crashes have happened in Maricopa County so far this year, as of June 10, according to research by The Arizona Republic. At least nine were fatal.

MORE:  At least 9 killed in Phoenix area by wrong-way drivers in 2018: How to stay safe

The primary goal of the wrong-way system continues to be reducing the risk of serious crashes by alerting law enforcement to wrong-way vehicles much faster than waiting for 911 calls from other drivers.

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ADOT Alerts lets you know when wrong-way drivers are on the road and sends you traffic updates. Carly Henry/azcentral.com.

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