Installation underway of wrong-way detection system on new I-4 Express lanes

First wrong-way driver to crash head-on believes he took wrong direct-connect ramp

News 6 discovered there is currently no wrong-way detection system in place on the exit ramps of the Express lane direct-connect ramps.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The first wrong-way driver who crashed head-on in the new Express toll lanes down the center of Interstate 4 that opened in February told News 6 exclusively he got on the wrong way and drove for miles in oncoming traffic and had no idea.

That wreck exposed a danger on the new toll lanes and launched a News 6 investigation.

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News 6 discovered there is currently no wrong-way detection system in place on the exit ramps of the Express lane direct-connect ramps.

The Florida Department of Transportation said the system would be installed in 2023 until Maurice Turrell Jr. crashed head-on into a driver just days after the lanes opened.

FDOT was ‘aggressively exploring’ how to speed up adding wrong-way detection system to I-4 Express lanes. The agency then said it would speed up the installation and now said it began installation the last week of March.

Turrell and the driver he hit both ended up in the hospital and survived. Turrell had a punctured lung and dislocated hip. Today he’s still on crutches.

Turrell said he was not drunk. The Florida Highway Patrol does not suspect he was. But he was was confused by the configuration of the new lanes, mistakenly getting onto the I-4 Express lanes near downtown Orlando going the wrong way probably using a direct-connect ramp exit, Turrell said.

“Before the Express lanes I’ve been taking Orlando/Lake Mary for almost two years,” Turrell said.

Turrell said he was driving the wrong way eastbound toward Daytona Beach in the westbound lanes for miles.

“There was nothing, not even a light, not a wrong way signal, not anything not anything on the road, nothing,” Turrell said. “So I’m driving 2 or 3 miles not knowing something’s coming towards me. It was the scariest thing ever.”

There are wrong-way warning signs and pavement markings on the direct-connect exit ramps, but nothing in the actual Express toll lanes.

Direct connect ramps are exits and entrances built into the I-4 Express lanes that take drivers directly to and from local roads.

Other Central Florida highways - State Roads 417, 408 and even I-4 general lane exits - have wrong-way detection system installed to include lights and cameras and automatic warnings to dispatchers and overhead signs.

Maurice Turrell Sr. said his son almost died.

“Y’all need to put more signs out there,” Turrell Sr. said. “You need to get it fixed or there’s going to be more accidents.”

Since News 6 began reporting on the direct connect ramps and law enforcement has been placed at all exits to the ramps, there have been no further reports of any other major wrong-way head-on crashes in the Express lanes.


About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.