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Arizona tests alert system to prevent wrong-way crashes

Two people were killed in a crash caused by a wrong-way driver on the Loop 202 San Tan Freeway near Higley Road in Gilbert in May 2014. (Photo from ABC15 video)

Two people were killed in a crash caused by a wrong-way driver on the Loop 202 San Tan Freeway near Higley Road in Gilbert in May 2014. (Photo from ABC15 video)

A rash of deadly wrong-way crashes on Phoenix-area freeways has led the Arizona Department of Transportation to research technology that would detect a car driving the wrong direction and send alerts to overhead freeway signs and police.

The department is evaluating radar-based detectors after installing hundreds of warning signs at freeway intersections in response to fatal wrong-way crashes, Phoenix news station KTVK-TV reported. The victims have included a young Mesa couple, an off-duty Mesa police officer and an off-duty Phoenix Fire Department dispatcher.

Engineers already have tested the detectors at two closed off-ramps along Loop 101, ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel said. The results were promising: The equipment detected vehicles going the wrong way and sent notifications to the department, he said.

He said the transit officials plan to continue testing detectors from several manufacturers over the summer.

“What we have to focus on is both detecting a wrong-way vehicle, how fast, and can we plug that potentially into a warning system,” Nintzel said.

Because it’s impossible to prevent someone from driving the wrong direction, Nintzel said, an immediate warning system for drivers who may be in harm’s way could be life-saving.

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