ORLANDO, Fla. – Two drivers were injured, one critically, early Monday in a wrong-way crash on the new I-4 Express lanes in Orlando, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
The head-on crash happened around 3:20 a.m. on I-4 east at mile marker 87 near Fairbanks Avenue.
The FHP said a 28-year-old Orlando man was driving a 2012 Buick LaCrosse east in the westbound express lanes and crashed into an oncoming 2019 Ford pickup truck driven by a 30-year-old Orlando man.
The driver of the SUV was taken to Orlando Health with critical injuries, according to an FHP crash report. The pickup driver suffered minor injuries and was also taken to Orlando Health, troopers said.
Both drivers were wearing their seat belts, the crash report stated.
The FHP said it’s not known how long or at which point the SUV driver began traveling in the wrong direction on I-4.
FDOT Public Information Director Jessica Ottaviano released a statement about the crash.
“The Florida Department of Transportation is working with law enforcement partners to learn about the circumstances related to a wrong-way driver crash that occurred during the early morning hours of Monday, March 7, in westbound I-4 Express near Fairbanks Avenue.
At local arterial I-4 Express direct connect exit ramps (Grand National Drive, South Street, Ivanhoe Boulevard and Central Parkway) there are already measures in place to deter motorists from entering the wrong direction. In addition to wrong-way signs, there are directional arrows painted on the ramps, stop bars painted on the roadway, lane markings on surface streets and reflective pavement markings to guide drivers into the proper lanes. Reflective pavement markers appear as white when traveling in the proper direction but show red when traveling in the opposite direction.
The Department plans to continue enhancing wrong-way driving technology within the I-4 Ultimate corridor. The planned enhancements are the same technology that was recently installed at other locations along I-4 (outside the construction zone of I-4 Ultimate). The equipment requires a specialist to install.
FDOT is constantly seeking to improve roadway safety for all users and will continue to closely monitor live traffic conditions.”
The new Express lanes opened last week, and authorities told News 6 they had received reports of wrong-way drivers who inadvertently got onto exit ramps and entered oncoming traffic in the new express lanes.
The new I-4 Express lane direct-connect ramps — entrances and exits that launch drivers from local roads right into the new toll lanes in the center of I-4 — have only “wrong way” signs that do not light up and markings on the pavement. There are no flashing lights and no cameras snapping pictures to send to troopers.
Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jessica Ottaviano perviously said the wrong-way vehicle detection system (WWVDS) will be installed on the direct-connect ramps next year.
“FDOT is constantly seeking to improve roadway safety for all users, especially as improvements continue to evolve,” Ottaviano said. “While this technology wasn’t around when the I-4 Ultimate project contract was being developed, once the innovative technology was discovered plans began in motion to put in place on the corridor. Design for these enhancements were done in parallel to the construction of I-4. This way installation plans could be initiated following the construction of the I-4 Ultimate as this technology requires a specialist to install. Construction of these systems along the I-4 Ultimate corridor are planned in 2023.”