The Utah Department of Transportation plans to expand its use of a wrong-way driver detection system that’s undergone highway testing since the fall of 2022 to 20 additional locations this year, mainly along I-15 in Salt Lake City.
[Above image by the Utah DOT]
The agency said the Utah Transportation Commission approved a funding request for $2.5 million to install the new wrong-way driver detection systems, which includes a radar, high definition/infrared cameras, and a series of red “Wrong Way” warning signs equipped with high-intensity light emitting diode or LED lights.
“We’re always looking at ways we can use technology to make our transportation system work better,” said Robert Miles, traffic and safety director for Utah DOT, in a statement.
“This innovative system will help prevent wrong-way crashes, making our roads safer for everyone who uses them,” he added.
The agency said it installed its first wrong-way detection warning and alert system in the fall of 2022 on the northbound off-ramp from Legacy Parkway at the I-15/Park Lane/US-89 interchange in Farmington.
Since that time, the system detected and alerted 23 wrong-way drivers, all of whom turned around. Utah DOT also noted that eight wrong-way crashes occurred in Utah in 2022, which resulted in 10 fatalities.
The agency said 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 UDOT Traffic Operations Center and Utah Highway Patrol so the driver can be tracked and stopped as quickly as possible.
Several state departments of transportation across the country are either using or testing similar wrong-way driver detection systems.
In late 2022, Connecticut’s General Assembly provided $20 million in additional bond funds to the Connecticut Department of Transportation to accelerate the installation of wrong way flashing signage at high-risk highway ramps statewide.
In January 2019, the Nevada Department of Transportation installed and activated a wrong-way driver detection and alert system on U.S. 395 based on radar and closed-circuit cameras that automatically detects vehicles entering a highway in the wrong direction, activating two sets of red flashing wrong-way signs on the ramp.
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.
And in 2015, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation began a program to install wrong-way detection systems on off-ramps across the state’s highways.
Those 29 systems on Rhode Island’s 400 highway ramps detect wrong-way drivers about four to five times a month, the agency noted in a recent news story.