Arizona Launches Safety Plan to Prevent Wrong-Way Crashes

June 27, 2014

State transportation officials said Wednesday that construction has begun near several Phoenix freeways to get the attention of wrong-way drivers in the wake of several deadly crashes.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said crews started work this week on installing safety measures intended to prevent drivers from entering a freeway in the wrong direction.

Do Not Enter signsAmong the changes will be new and larger “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs posted at exit ramps at six freeway interchanges. The signs will be increased from 36-by-36-inches to 48-by-48 inches. The signs will also be put at a lower angle to increase the chances they will alert a confused or impaired driver, according to the transportation department.

Roads on exit ramps will also have pavement markers in the shape of arrows pointed in the correct direction. The markers will contain reflectors that will project red to help warn wrong-way drivers.

The six sites that will get enhanced signage were identified as locations with a history of wrong-way driving incidents, according to an analysis of 911 calls made to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. They include three interchanges along Interstate 10, one on Interstate 17 and two on the Loop 101. Crews expect to complete the work within the next few days.

A series of fatal crashes that started in May prompted an emergency meeting among the directors of the state Department of Public Safety, Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. Since then, the agencies have been reviewing and discussing strategies.

Seven people died within a week because of wrong-way drivers, authorities said. On May 18, a young Mesa couple died when a woman driving the wrong direction struck their vehicle. Three people from Indonesia died May 16 under similar circumstances on Interstate 17 about 30 miles north of Phoenix. A May 12 wreck on a Tempe freeway ramp killed a wrong-way driver and an off-duty Mesa police officer.

Impairment was a factor in all of them, investigators said.

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