The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced today that advanced wrong-way driving detection systems will be active, beginning this week, at 24 locations across the state. The systems will both alert a driver who is traveling in the wrong direction as well as notify police and other motorists in the area of a potential wrong-way driver.
"Too many Rhode Islanders have lost their lives in wrong-way driving crashes," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "As a state, we must do all we can to reduce the incidence of wrong-way driving, which puts everyone on the road at risk. The innovative approach we are taking with the introduction of these systems statewide is a critical step forward in our ability to keep people safe in their travels around Rhode Island."
Nationally approximately 360 people die each year in wrong-way related crashes. Since 2008, there have been 10 fatal wrong-way crashes in Rhode Island, resulting in 13 deaths. Although the numbers of crashes caused by wrong-way drivers are a small percentage compared with annual crash rates, they are far more likely to result in fatalities.
"Ensuring the safety of the traveling public is our top priority," said RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. "Doing projects such as this one is one way we demonstrate our commitment to safety, but it is not a cure-all. We must continue to explore innovative ways to increase safety on our highways and educate motorists on risky and criminal behaviors that are all too often associated with wrong-way crashes - such as driving under the influence. By working together, we can make our roads safer, and all get home to our families at night."
"The mitigation systems being put into place to assist in the prevention of wrong-way drivers are certainly welcomed and helpful in the cumulative goal of zero fatalities. To further minimize the loss of life, the message continues to be, 'Do not consume alcohol and operate a motor vehicle.' It's the simplest solution in the prevention of the majority of these wrong-way fatal crashes," stated Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety.
The new detection systems will sense if a driver has entered a highway off-ramp and activate a series of flashing signs. It will also notify the Rhode Island State Police that someone is driving the wrong way on the road, take a picture of the vehicle, and display a message on overhead electronic message signs to warn other drivers in the immediate area.
The detection systems are being tested this week during the overnight hours. Once a system at a particular location is tested, it is activated and considered a 'live' site. This work is part of a $1.8 million initiative to address the occurrence of wrong-way crashes in Rhode Island. In addition to the 24 detection systems, wrong-way signage and striping have been upgraded at 145 locations (more than 200 actual ramps) across the state. Additional detection systems are being planned for under a future phase of the project.
Rhode Island's Wrong-Way Mitigation Project is modeled after a similar program in San Antonio, Texas. In that state, 29 flashing signs were installed along a major highway; within a year, there was a 30 percent reduction in wrong-way driving incidents.
For more information on the wrong-way detection systems, including a map of locations, visit www.dot.ri.gov/wrongway.
Contact: Rose Amoros (401) 222-1362, Ext. 4450