A high-tech solution for the Valley's most dangerous intersections

Posted: Updated:
Fridays are the most dangerous day of the week for wrecks – nearly twice as dangerous as Sundays. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Fridays are the most dangerous day of the week for wrecks – nearly twice as dangerous as Sundays. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Together with the Maricopa County Department of Transportation and ADOT, they are testing connected-vehicle technology that allows cars to communicate with traffic signals and vice versa. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Together with the Maricopa County Department of Transportation and ADOT, they are testing connected-vehicle technology that allows cars to communicate with traffic signals and vice versa. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
As vehicles equipped with transmitters get within about 900 feet of an intersection, they start trading information. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) As vehicles equipped with transmitters get within about 900 feet of an intersection, they start trading information. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Connected vehicles and intersections could have a dramatic impact on safety. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Connected vehicles and intersections could have a dramatic impact on safety. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
University of Arizona researcher Sara Khosravi is testing a cell phone application that helps blind or disabled pedestrians cross these connected intersections. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) University of Arizona researcher Sara Khosravi is testing a cell phone application that helps blind or disabled pedestrians cross these connected intersections. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

It’s 10:27 p.m. on a Friday night and my photojournalist and I have just witnessed a nasty three-car crash.

We hurry to join other witnesses who are gathered around three mangled vehicles at Central Avenue and Camelback Road. At least one person is hurt and would be taken to the hospital.

“I saw a car swerve, and then a car flip over three times,” said Matt Acevedo, who was walking in the crosswalk when the crash happened. “It looked like something out of a movie, to be honest.”

[SEPCIAL SECTION: Power of 2: Empowering you to be safe]

The crash did look surreal, but it’s something that happens with regularity throughout the Valley. In fact, Fridays are the most dangerous day of the week for wrecks – nearly twice as dangerous as Sundays.

According to an analysis from the Maricopa Association of Governments, the majority of the Valley’s most dangerous intersections are in west Phoenix and Glendale. The map below shows the top 15.

The most dangerous time of any day? Evening rush hour. One-quarter of all crashes occur within the three-hour window between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

A high-tech solution

Traffic engineers have controlled intersections the same way for roughly the last 65 years, said K. Larry Head of the University of Arizona Transportation Research Institute.

But Head is testing technology in Anthem that could radically change the way traffic signals are managed – and potentially save thousands of lives.

“We’re really going to make a change in the way traffic works,” he said.

Together with the Maricopa County Department of Transportation and ADOT, they are testing connected-vehicle technology that allows cars to communicate with traffic signals and vice versa.

As vehicles equipped with transmitters get within about 900 feet of an intersection, they start trading information.

“With this connected-vehicle technology, for the first time ever, we know where the cars are. What they're doing. What kind of cars they are. How fast they're moving. Where they're going,” Head said. “It makes a difference.”

The difference is that traffic signals can use that data to automatically adjust to suit the needs of approaching vehicles. The signals can give emergency vehicles priority. If there are multiple emergency vehicles, the signals can figure out which one should be let through first. They could also help protect drivers from red light runners.

“We can hold a signal on red so the cars don't run into each other,” said Faisal Saleem of MCDOT. “There are a lot of safety benefits from the information we are providing.”

The benefits aren’t just for drivers.

University of Arizona researcher Sara Khosravi is testing a cell phone application that helps blind or disabled pedestrians cross these connected intersections. Her app lets users request a walk signal by simply tapping their screen. It alerts the user if they’re facing the wrong direction. It also counts aloud the number of seconds a user has to get to the other side.

The team says this connected technology isn’t some far-off dream. The team has been testing the tech since 2012.

“The technology is ready,” Saleem said.

He said this year, Cadillac incorporated this communication capability into 5,000 of their vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering implementing a rule that would require automakers to incorporate connected-vehicle technology into all new cars starting in 2021.

The team testing the Multi-Modal Intelligent Traffic Signal System in Anthem isn’t waiting until then. The sensors will be ready for rollout to government vehicles and large trucks much sooner, Head said. Researchers demonstrated the technology Thursday to a group in the trucking industry.

Connected vehicles and intersections could have a dramatic impact on safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates they could reduce unimpaired crashes by 80 percent, Saleem said.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

Click to learn more about Derek.

Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

Hide bio

  • Featured VideoMore>>

  • Duck boat tragedy: 17 dead, including 9 from one family

    Duck boat tragedy: 17 dead, including 9 from one family

    Friday, July 20 2018 6:30 PM EDT2018-07-20 22:30:58 GMT
    A family places flowers on vehicles of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)A family places flowers on vehicles of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)

    Seventeen people were killed and several were injured after a duck boat capsized and sank on Table Rock Lake in Stone County, Missouri, near Branson, Thursday night.

    More >

    Seventeen people were killed and several were injured after a duck boat capsized and sank on Table Rock Lake in Stone County, Missouri, near Branson, Thursday night.

    More >
  • 17 killed, including 9 members from one family, in Missouri duck boat sinking

    17 killed, including 9 members from one family, in Missouri duck boat sinking

    Friday, July 20 2018 4:47 PM EDT2018-07-20 20:47:27 GMT
    Several people are dead after a tourist boat overturned and sank in a lake near Branson, Missouri, during a thunderstorm. (Courtesy of Tony Burkhart via CNN)Several people are dead after a tourist boat overturned and sank in a lake near Branson, Missouri, during a thunderstorm. (Courtesy of Tony Burkhart via CNN)

    Seventeen people, including children, died Friday after a duck boat carrying tourists capsized and sank in a lake during a thunderstorm in Branson, Missouri.

    More >

    Seventeen people, including children, died Friday after a duck boat carrying tourists capsized and sank in a lake during a thunderstorm in Branson, Missouri.

    More >
  • Pharmacist refuses to fill transgender woman's hormone therapy prescription

    Pharmacist refuses to fill transgender woman's hormone therapy prescription

    Friday, July 20 2018 4:39 PM EDT2018-07-20 20:39:55 GMT
    Hilde Hall says a pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for hormone therapy to begin her transition to a woman. (Source: ACLU of Arizona)Hilde Hall says a pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for hormone therapy to begin her transition to a woman. (Source: ACLU of Arizona)
    Hilde Hall says a pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for hormone therapy to begin her transition to a woman. (Source: ACLU of Arizona)Hilde Hall says a pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for hormone therapy to begin her transition to a woman. (Source: ACLU of Arizona)

    A transgender woman who was just starting hormone therapy hit a roadblock when a local pharmacist refused to fill her prescription. 

    More >

    A transgender woman who was just starting hormone therapy hit a roadblock when a local pharmacist refused to fill her prescription. 

    More >
  • Power of 2: Empowering you to be safeMore>>

  • Witness describes scene inside restaurant during holdup

    Witness describes scene inside restaurant during holdup

    Saturday, May 13 2017 9:27 AM EDT2017-05-13 13:27:23 GMT

    It was an ordinary Sunday night in a north Phoenix restaurant until the gunman burst through the front door. "I remember thinking 'this isn't happening, this isn't real,'" said Angelic, whose last name we agreed to withhold so she would tell us the story of what she saw and what she did that night.

    More >

    It was an ordinary Sunday night in a north Phoenix restaurant until the gunman burst through the front door. "I remember thinking 'this isn't happening, this isn't real,'" said Angelic, whose last name we agreed to withhold so she would tell us the story of what she saw and what she did that night.

    More >
  • Online footprints are manageable, but not erasable

    Online footprints are manageable, but not erasable

    Friday, May 12 2017 10:32 AM EDT2017-05-12 14:32:38 GMT
    How hard would it be to track down a complete stranger with little more information than name or a photo? It's easier than many people think. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)How hard would it be to track down a complete stranger with little more information than name or a photo? It's easier than many people think. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    If you ask people in downtown Phoenix, they will likely tell you that there is a ton of information about them available online. What they are not likely to know is how to reduce the amount of information available.

    More >

    If you ask people in downtown Phoenix, they will likely tell you that there is a ton of information about them available online. What they are not likely to know is how to reduce the amount of information available.

    More >
  • A high-tech solution for the Valley's most dangerous intersections

    A high-tech solution for the Valley's most dangerous intersections

    Friday, May 12 2017 9:40 AM EDT2017-05-12 13:40:57 GMT
    Fridays are the most dangerous day of the week for wrecks – nearly twice as dangerous as Sundays. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Fridays are the most dangerous day of the week for wrecks – nearly twice as dangerous as Sundays. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Traffic engineers have controlled intersections the same way for roughly the last 65 years, but researchers are testing a new approach in Anthem that could radically change that -- and save lives.

    More >

    Traffic engineers have controlled intersections the same way for roughly the last 65 years, but researchers are testing a new approach in Anthem that could radically change that -- and save lives.

    More >