ADOT starts work on wrong-way vehicle detection system along I-17

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Wrong-way drivers causing deadly crashes. It's a serious problem around the Valley and across the state.

Michael Moretti of Phoenix knows the split-second fear and pure panic of crashing head-on into a wrong-way driver.

It happened to Moretti last summer.

"It makes me angry, mostly, I guess because I just feel like people aren't being responsible," said Moretti.

Amazingly, the Phoenix man survived, but there are many other Valley drivers not as fortunate, with the number of wrong-way crashes on the rise.

In an effort to better protect motorists from wrong-way drivers, Arizona's Department of Transportation is installing the nation's first wrong-way vehicle detection system along a 15-mile stretch of I-17.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Wrong-way drivers]

ADOT's Doug Nintzel said the system will use thermal cameras.

"Those cameras are going to be able to detect a vehicle that turns, and starts to go the wrong way down an off-ramp," said Nintzel. "That will signal a wrong- way sign, but also,  it will alert ADOT and DPS right away that a wrong-way vehicle is out there so we can respond that much quicker."

Nintzel said the new system won't prevent wrong-way driving, but if it can get wrong-way drivers off the road faster while warning others, and that should help. 

Moretti is happy to see something is being done to address the wrong-way driver problem, but he's not convinced it will work.

"In my accident, it happened in a split-second," said Moretti. "He was driving for one minute.  I don't think that's enough time for anyone to react. I think it's a good idea, a step in the right direction. I'm just skeptical on how it's going to work."

Off-ramps along Indian School Road along I-17 will be shut down from 9 p.m. Friday to noon Saturday to install the new wrong-way vehicle detection system. Other off-ramps will be closed for brief periods of time from now until November, Nintzel said.

The system is expected to be fully operational by early 2018.

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Jason Barry
Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

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Jason Barry

Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

He is a nine-time Rocky Mountain Emmy Award winner who is best known for his weekly Dirty Dining reports, which highlight local restaurants with major health code violations.

Jason was born in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Miami.

An avid sports fan, Jason follows the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Suns with his wife, Karen, and son, Joshua.

His favorite stories to cover are the station’s Pay it Forward segments, which reward members of the community with $500 for going ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty to help others.

Jason, started his career at WBTW-TV in Florence, SC before moving to WALA-TV in Mobile, AL, was named the Associated Press Reporter of the Year in 2002.

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