ADOT testing ways to prevent wrong-way drivers

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona transportation officials are announcing new safety measures to help keep drivers from going the wrong way.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is showing new signs Wednesday that the agency plans to install at several Phoenix-area freeway interchanges.

ADOT has been studying how to catch the attention of drivers before they enter a freeway heading the wrong direction.

To that end, ADOT is installing larger "Do Not Enter" and "Wrong Way" signs that are about 4 feet lower, closer to a driver's eye line.

"We're looking to make them that much more noticeable," ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel explained to 3TV's Jill Galus Wednesday morning.

In addition, crews installed raised pavement markers with red reflectors in the shape of large arrows pointing the proper direction on the off ramps. The reflectors are already in use as part of the lane markings on the freeways.

"The red reflectors would point toward a wrong-way driver if he or she is starting down an off ramp going the wrong direction," Nintzel said.

ADOT is putting the reflectors, arrows and new signage in place at six interchanges.

  • Interstate 17 and Carefree Highway (State Route 74)
  • Loop 101 (Agua Fria) and Thunderbird Road
  • Loop 101 (Agua Fria) and Peoria Avenue
  • Interstate 10 and Ray Road
  • Interstate 10 and Wild Horse Pass Boulevard
  • Interstate 10 and Queen Creek Road (State Route 347)

According to ADOT, those six interchanges were identified as locations with histories of wrong-way driver incidents.

"We are, over the next several months, going to be taking a look at the effectiveness these particular adjustments, these changes in the safety measures out here," Nintzel said. "We have to do what we can from an engineering standpoint to see if there are things we could  do to get the attention of the impaired drivers.

"Sometimes it's the confused driver out there," he continued. "But the impaired driver is the real challenge for us. ... What we're doing here today, we certainly see as the next step in a very complicated problem."

It's not clear how long it will take ADOT to determine the efficacy of the new signage and marking before expanding the changes to the more than 100 traffic interchanges on the Phoenix-area freeway system and more than 475 interchanges along the rest of the state highway system.

There have been five incidents in the last two months involving wrong-way drivers on metropolitan Phoenix interstates.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety says those accidents resulted in the deaths of seven people, including an off-duty Mesa police officer.

Investigators believe impairment was a factor in all of them.

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