One year after its debut, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT)'s investment in wrong-way driving detection technology is proving to be very successful – none of the 47 wrong-way driving incidents where these systems have been installed has resulted in a wrong-way crash.
"We are extremely pleased with the results of this system," RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said. "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."
Working with the Rhode Island State Police, RIDOT identified 24 high-risk locations for installing this technology at select 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 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 $600,000, and was part of a larger $2 million investment which also included upgrading the signing and striping at 145 locations (more than 200 actual ramps) across the state. The overall goal was to clearly distinguish exit ramps from entrance ramps and prevent driver confusion.
News of RIDOT's work toward reducing wrong-way crashes has spread beyond Rhode Island, and was featured in a story this week aired on WNEP Channel 16, an ABC affiliate in Scranton, Pa. A similar story aired in February on WBZ Channel 4, a CBS affiliate in Boston. RIDOT has posted a brief clip of cars observed traveling the wrong way on the off-ramp from Route 10 North to Reservoir Avenue at https://youtu.be/OdXvrZ56L_k.
Nationwide, about 360 people die in wrong-way crashes annually. Here in Rhode Island, we have witnessed 10 fatal crashes, resulting in 13 deaths since 2008. Alcohol impairment is a leading factor for wrong-way crashes, and most happen on weekends and during evening and overnight hours.
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 continue to analyze crash data and ramp configurations to determine the most suitable locations for these detectors.
Contact: Charles St. Martin (401) 222-1362, Ext. 4007