Rhode Island’s wrong-way driving systems prove their worth

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One year after its debut, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s (RIDOT) investment in wrong-way driving detection technology is proving to be very successful; none of the 47 wrong-way driving incidents where the systems have been installed has resulted in a wrong-way crash.

Working with the Rhode Island State Police, RIDOT identified 24 high-risk locations for installing the new technology at selected ramps along I-95, I-195, Route 146, Route 10, Route 4, Route 6 and Routes 6/10 at Memorial Boulevard in Providence. The detectors are designed to sense if a driver is going the wrong way, and then notify both the driver and RIDOT. When a wrong-way driver is detected, LED lights embedded in wrong-way signs begin flashing at the driver. If the wrong-way driver continues to drive beyond the flashing signs, State Police and local police are notified, and a message is displayed on the state’s overhead electronic signs to warn other drivers in the immediate area.

The detection system cost approximately US$600,000 to deploy, and was part of a larger US$2m investment, which also included upgrading the signing and striping at 145 locations across the state, with improvements made on more than 200 highway ramps. The overall goal of the upgrade was to clearly distinguish exit ramps from entrance ramps, and prevent driver confusion. In 2018, RIDOT plans to go out to construction to make ramp modifications and install wrong-way driving systems at 25 additional locations. RIDOT and the state police will continue to analyze crash data and ramp configurations to determine the most suitable locations for the new detector systems.

Across the USA, about 360 people die in wrong-way crashes every year. In Rhode Island, the agency reveals that there have been 10 fatal crashes, resulting in 13 deaths, since 2008. Government statistics show that alcohol impairment is a leading factor in wrong-way crashes, and most happen at weekends and during evening and overnight hours.

“We are extremely pleased with the results of this system,” said RIDOT director, Peter Alviti Jr. “Improving highway safety and saving lives is integral to the mission of our department. Even if the systems only prevented one wrong-way crash and the serious injuries or deaths that could have resulted, this program has proven to be a wise investment.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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