SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation and troopers are hoping new technology will stop wrong-way drivers from causing serious crashes along Interstate 4.
FDOT installed Wrong Way Vehicle Detection Systems on eight interchanges along I-4 in Orange, Seminole, and Volusia counties.
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FDOT professional engineer Jim Stroz knows how devastating a wrong-way crash can be. He said his 16-year-old nephew was recently killed by a wrong-way driver.
“If this equipment can help prevent another family from going through what our family has gone through and other victims’ family, then I think it’s a great way for us to honor my nephew and also to really strive toward a fatality-free roadway,” Stroz said.
FDOT hopes to prevent future wrong-way crashes with the new wrong-way driving alert system. The technology is located at 17 off-ramps on the interstate.
“There was a statewide study that had recommended wrong-way driving hot spots, and the I-4 corridor is one our locations in our district,” Stroz said.
Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Kim Montes said they’ve received seven reports of wrong-way drivers this month. She adds wrong-way crashes typically end in multiple deaths.
“It’s one of the crashes that we absolutely want to prevent and this system helps us get there quicker,” Montes said.
FDOT shared video of how the system works. If a wrong-way driver is detected, wrong-way signs on the exit ramps start flashing red. If the driver keeps going in the wrong direction, FDOT and law enforcement are notified immediately. Electronic signs are updated along the interstate to warn motorists about a possible wrong-way driver.
“Before we had to wait for a citizen to call in a wrong-way driver or a crash to occur. Now, we can instantly converge on this area where we can prevent that crash if they don’t right themselves,” Montes said.
Montes said most wrong-way drivers are impaired, disoriented, or trying to commit suicide.
“All three of those put the drivers at risk that are just traveling down the road innocently not knowing that there’s somebody coming toward them,” Montes said.
Montes adds motorists should avoid traveling in the left lane, especially overnight, because that’s where most wrong-way crashes happen.
“Stay in the center or right lane because even if you don’t have notification of a wrong-way driver, that will give you precious extra seconds to possibly get out of the way,” she said.
Stroz adds the alert system is already getting results and making the interstate safer.
“We’ve found that more than 80% of drivers in fact see the first message and re-correct and are able to turn around on the ramp and go back the right way, so this is really a very effective tool and we’re really excited about the positive results,” Stroz said.
FDOT said they plan to install additional alert systems once the I-4 Ultimate Project is complete, as well as along I-75 and I-95.