North Carolina DOT studying rise in wrong-way crashes

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
NC DOT studying rise in wrong-way crashes
Most crashes involved impaired drivers and the elderly

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- You've seen them on the highways: those big red signs that read 'Wrong Way' on exit ramps or divided highways. But too often there are drivers who do not heed the warning.

Amy Bailey remembers every detail of the night her in-laws were killed.

Ormond and Gaynell Bailey were hit by a wrong-way driver in 2013 who was drunk at the time.

"It has left a huge hole in our hearts," said Bailey. "I see it on the television way too often and it just breaks my heart for the families involved and I know what they're about to face."

"There's really two categories these crashes tend to have. One of them is impairment and the other is senior drivers, but the impairment drivers far outnumber the senior drivers," said NCDOT traffic engineer Kevin Lacy.

According to the NCDOT, wrong-way crashes spiked nearly 67 percent last year.

"One of the key problems is we don't know which interchange they're getting on the wrong way," said Lacy.

The NCDOT is currently researching ways to curb the problem. One is a traffic sensor that is already being tested in Florida.

The sensor flashes when a driver gets onto a ramp going the wrong way. If they continue driving, a second sensor goes off alerting law enforcement.

Lacy said there are a few challenges with implementing the technology, including where to install it. North Carolina has more than 2,500 miles of roadway, and the sensors can cost several thousand dollars each.

Other options include putting alerts on the backs of signs to warn drivers and lowering wrong-way signs.

While the NCDOT considers the possibilities, it could be at least a year before drivers notice any changes on the highways.

"If the DOT can do anything, whoever is in charge of making this decision, try things, because something's got to give," said Bailey.

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