PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Tuesday night’s deadly wrong-way crash on Loop 101 is the 33rd wrong-way crash this year, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
To address wrong-way crashes, the Arizona Department of Transportation installed thermal-imaging cameras, which are part of wrong-way detection and warning system technology along a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 17 from the Interstate 10 stack to Loop 101.
The $3.7 million pilot program is the first of its kind in the nation. It has been up and running for about 1.5 years.
“Since the system became operational in January 2018, its thermal cameras have detected more than 70 wrong-way vehicles, mostly at freeway off-ramps, within the 15-mile project test zone between the I-10 stack interchange near downtown and the Loop 101 interchange in north Phoenix,” an ADOT representative said in an email.
Right now, ADOT is evaluating its effectiveness.
“The majority of wrong-drivers are impaired. It's important to note that wrong-way technology, including thermal cameras, cannot prevent someone from being a wrong-way driver, nor is it designed to physically prevent crashes. Our first-in-the nation I-17 pilot system is designed to reduce the risk of tragic wrong-way crashes by immediately alerting AZDPS and ADOT to wrong-way vehicles, so troopers can respond sooner than waiting for 911 calls from other drivers. It also allows ADOT to warn other freeway drivers via message signs,” ADOT added.
So, why isn’t the same technology on other Valley freeways, where wrong-way crashes have occurred?
The short answer: it’s not part of the pilot program.
So, will ADOT consider placing more of this technology on other Valley freeways? If so, when?
ADOT didn’t get into specifics and stressed the importance of first finishing the pilot program’s evaluation, which they expect to complete by the end of this year. They also said research from the pilot program “will assist with decisions about which countermeasures can be used elsewhere.”