Utah DOT Adding More Wrong-Way Detection Systems

The Utah Department of Transportation said it installed 15 wrong-way driving detection systems in 2023, with the agency currently in the process of installing eight more such systems on highways statewide.

[Above photo by Utah DOT]

The agency said its new wrong-way driver detection and alert systems consist of a detector unit, which includes a radar and high definition/infrared cameras, and a series of red “Wrong Way” warning signs equipped with solar-powered, high-intensity light emitting diode or LED lights.

Photo by the Utah DOT

Utah DOT explained that when a wrong-way driver is detected by the radar or the cameras, the LED signs activate to alert the driver. If the vehicle continues going the wrong way, the system sends automated alerts to the agency’s Traffic Operations Center (TOC) and the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) so the driver can be tracked and stopped as quickly as possible.

During an initial test of the new system last fall on the northbound off-ramp from Legacy Parkway at the I-15/Park Lane/US-89 interchange in Farmington, the system detected and alerted 23 wrong-way drivers, all of whom turned around.

In February of this year, the Utah Transportation Commission approved a funding request by the agency for $2.5 million to install that wrong-way technology at 22 additional locations.

“It’s important that we continue to innovate and find ways to improve safety on our roads,” noted Robert Miles, traffic and safety director for Utah DOT, in a statement. “One quick decision can lead to fatal mistakes. We hope this system can help people quickly realize they made a wrong turn and flip around before it’s too late.”

State departments of transportation across the country have installed or are currently installing such wrong-way detection technology on the highways under their purview.

For example, the Nevada Department of Transportation substantially completed installation of wrong-way driver detection systems on I-580, known as the Carson City Freeway, in September 2023. The agency has been installing such technology on selected highways statewide since 2019.

Photo by Connecticut DOT

In June 2023, Governor Ned Lamont (D) signed into law a measure passed by the state legislature directing the Connecticut Department of Transportation to install wrong-way driving alert systems on at least 120 additional highway exit ramps statewide – ramps identified by the agency as at “high-risk” for wrong-way driving incidents.

Connecticut DOT has been installing wrong-way driving detection technology on state highway exit ramps over the last three years and continues to expand its use statewide.

The technology uses cameras to detect a driver entering a highway from the wrong direction and rapidly flashes bright red light emitting diode or LED lights to notify them that they are driving the wrong way. Future installations will add the ability to notify Connecticut State Police in real time, the agency said.

In September 2022, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet received $5.1 million in federal funds to pilot test a wrong-way driver detection system on select highways statewide.

KYTC said its “Wrong Way Driving and Integrated Safety Technology System” would use “cutting-edge” computing and video processing to implement a pilot program aimed at detecting and deterring wrong-way incidents by alerting the wrong-way driver, other drivers, and emergency responders.

In July 2022, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation began pilot testing a wrong way detection and alert system on six ramps along I-40 in the eastern part of the state. Using thermal cameras, the system identifies when a vehicle enters an exit ramp in the wrong direction and displays flashing lights on already posted Wrong Way signs to increase noticeability.

The Arizona Department of Transportation deployed a first-in-the-nation thermal-camera wrong-way vehicle alert system in the Phoenix area in 2017 – a system that received a national award in 2018. The agency is also enhancing and expanding its wrong-way driver detection system to other highway corridors statewide.

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