Detection and Warning Systems for Wrong-Way Driving

Wrong-way driving results from drivers making wrong-way entries onto freeways or other controlled-access highways, or making mainline maneuvers that result in driving the wrong way/direction. Collisions from wrong-way drivers continue to be a problem on the nation's highways, including Arizona's controlled-access highways. Although infrequent, the consequences of wrong-way driving crashes are much more serious than other types of collisions. The department continues to review different access control measures, including the design of on/off ramp approaches and signage, looking for possible changes or additions that can impact wrong-way entries. In addition, the department seeks to explore the potential benefits of detecting wrong-way incidents and providing timely warnings; to the wrong-way driver, to relevant authorities, and to other motorists in the area (where appropriate), as an additional mitigation tool for select highway locations. To this end, this research will focus on establishing the magnitude and characteristics of the problem, identifying the most effective detection systems, evaluating and selecting warning systems/protocols that will work best within existing infrastructure and law enforcement capacities, creating a plan for a pilot deployment at select locations, and developing a post-installation monitoring plan for the identified systems. A matrix of key performance criteria will be developed to evaluate detection systems and warning protocols. The aim will be to ensure that only systems meeting an agreed set of minimum requirements are considered for potential deployment. This effort has its own challenges. First, determining highway points of entry by wrong-way drivers is not a simple matter. Information about wrong-way drivers is normally sent in by other drivers after the wrong-way driver has already entered the highway. Thus those calling in and reporting the wrong-way vehicle rarely know where it entered the highway. Another major issue is how to draw the attention of drivers who are impaired, which happens to be the case for a large proportion of the drivers involved, as determined from cases where incident information and driver status was available. The large number of exit ramps constitutes another challenge. The cost of implementing specific countermeasures at all exit ramp locations can be prohibitive, making it even more critical to identify and prioritize potential problem locations or corridors. It is also important for any measures taken as part of the solution to either comply with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), or have a pilot testing exemption.