“We want folks to know this is not a prevention system. This is really a system to help reduce the risk," said Doug Nintzel, spokesman for ADOT.
He says 90 thermal cameras were installed along 15 miles of the I-17 between August and November of last year. The system has been online for two months and is already detecting wrong-way drivers.
"One vehicle was at Thomas Road; was starting to go down the off-ramp on the northbound side of the freeway," said Nintzel.
That driver realized it and self-corrected.
"Another one up at loop 101 and I-17 interchange was driving southbound in the northbound off-ramp to Loop 101," said Nintzel.
In that case, the driver drove a short distance and then abandoned the car on the side of the road. The key in both of these wrong-way driver situations is that the system alerted authorities, ADOT and the public within seconds. And that was the main test for ADOT.
"We learn as the data comes in. We then can share that with other metro areas around the country," said Nintzel.
Even with the mini-successes at the start of testing, ADOT still needs the public’s help and has a message for drivers.
"To not get behind the wheel while they are impaired," said Nintzel.
The warning system will continue testing for about a year. ADOT is hoping the research it gathers will help them determine if cameras should be installed on other freeways around the Valley.
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