Triangle Freeway testing technology to prevent wrong-way crashes

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Friday, January 18, 2019
Triangle Freeway testing technology to prevent wrong-way crashes
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Triangle Freeway testing technology to prevent wrong-way crashes.

Warnings systems being tested in the Triangle might prevent one of the fastest growing hazards on limited-access highways.

Statistics compiled by the state since 2000 show wrong-way-crash numbers fluctuate but over 17 years have steadily risen.

The last year for which statistics have been compiled, 2017, was the worst.

In that year, there were 48 such crashes, resulting in 19 deaths and 58 injuries.

READ MORE: Wrong-way freeway crashes since 2000 (.pdf)

But now, on the Triangle Expressway, engineers are testing systems that take a two-pronged approach to the problem.

First, drivers are warned with flashing red lights on signs telling them they are trying to enter the highway from the wrong direction.

Since testing began, four drivers have triggered the alert.

All turned around.

But the system also alerts authorities in case drivers don't stop.

That will give law enforcement a head start they don't currently have.

"We're just going to be looking to see which new technology performs the best. Then we're hoping to expand the pilot and implement this fully on the Triangle Expressway," said North Carolina Turnpike Authority Executive Director Beau Memory in a video provided by the state Department of Transportation.

Memory said the technology developed and tested right here will likely be exported to other roadways and even into other states.

"We're keeping people safe. We're making our facilities safer," Memory said. "And we're building a knowledge base that can be used by others to the same across the country."

ABC11 talked with a number of local drivers who know wrong-way, head-on crashes are some of the hardest-to-prevent driving hazards.

All welcomed the technology.