Highway Safety

Wrong-Way Driver Pilot Program Yielding Results

NBC Connecticut Investigates got an exclusive look at how the program is working.

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Vehicle crashes involving wrong way drivers are some of the deadliest on our roads.

NBC Connecticut Investigates has reported a series of stories about techniques to detect and prevent these kinds of crashes.

One of the tools the state has been testing out is a wrong-way driver deterrence system.

The pilot project is located on the I-84 off ramp at exit 8 in Danbury.

The DOT said it chose that spot because it has had a high number of wrong-way crashes in the past.

Drivers from the area said they could see how wrong-way drivers might pull out of a small business district along the exit 8 off-ramp and go the wrong way into oncoming traffic.

“People come out and do a left-hand turn, I’ve seen it.  And then by the time they see the wrong way sign, that’s it,” said Joseph Rosso of Danbury.

In early September the state Department of Transportation wrapped up installation of its first pilot test site for wrong-way driver detection using motion sensors connected to the off-ramp’s traffic light system.

“We set it up in a way that it could detect drivers that were traveling in the wrong direction and that detection would then turn on flashing lights that are on the top of the wrong way signs,” said Mark Carlino, the DOT’s division chief of Traffic Engineering.   

The DOT said in just in the first two and a half months, the detection system has been tripped 5 times by wrong-way drivers, and the flashing wrong way sign likely led them to turn around.

Carlino added, “It shows that the technology does work, it’s working in this location.”

One area driver said all this helps, but also believes more “one way” signs right outside the businesses where people might take a left turn and go the wrong way, would also make a difference.

“That’s all you need to do.  It’s simple,” said James Edwards of Southbury.

Going low tech like Edwards suggested may not exactly have been what the DOT did in Danbury.

However, it is a lower tech solution than what safety experts designed in neighboring Rhode Island. 

Rhode Island’s system feeds photos of the wrong way drivers back to its headquarters and can quickly put alerts on digital highway signs to alert drivers.   The program there has had some encouraging early results.

The pilot system the DOT has in Danbury does not capture photos or video, and the alert that gets sent when a wrong-way driver is detected is an automated email to traffic engineers. 

However, the state says its system, while lower tech, is also lower cost. 

The one in Danbury has a price tag of roughly $75,000, and Carlino said when you add the extras like Rhode Island has in its system, the costs go up rapidly.

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