Technology in Columbus to help prevent wrong-way crashes

Posted at 5:05 PM, Jul 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 18:24:43-04

News 5 has investigated and tracked wrong way crashes for years. We've talked to victims and asked law enforcement officials and legislators what can be done about these rare, but always dangerous, accidents. 

Now, new technology is being tested in Ohio that could be a solution to the problem. 

It's radar technology that detects a car going the wrong way onto the highway. When a driver going the wrong way onto a ramp approaches the highway, the radar recognizes it, and LED lighted signs flash to try and stop the driver. Road crews are also alerted immediately. 

Similar technologies are being employed across the country, but it's the first of its kind in Ohio. It is currently being tested it in Columbus. 

"This site was selected because Columbus police actually came to us and suggested we put something else there, because they were seeing a higher than usual number of people trying to get on the wrong way at this ramp or actually getting on the wrong way," Matt Bruning with the Ohio Department of Transportation said.

It's on I-670 westbound near several downtown bars, an area where Columbus law enforcement reports a higher rate of DUI-related arrests and DUI crashes — a common factor in wrong-way crashes. 

"The easiest way, the cheapest way, to stop these crashes from happening is for people to simply stop driving drunk," Bruning said.

While wrong-way crashes are rare when compared to all car crashes statewide, they're almost always serious and often fatal. 

We've seen this in the Cleveland area just within the last month.

Two weeks ago, a fatal wrong-way crash on the Shoreway killed a 22-year-old woman who tried to swerve and get away from the car driving in the wrong direction. Just days before that, a wrong-way crash involving a drunk driver in Kirkland Hills sent one person to the hospital with incapacitating injuries.

What Bruning said is tricky about preventing these crashes is determining where to put the radar technology to make it most effective. Experts said the crashes don't all happen in one place and normally aren't even concentrated in one area.

"There are 5,209 ramps in the state of Ohio that get onto or off of our highway system...we have to be prescriptive as to where we put whatever counter measures we put into place, because systems like this, with LED flashing lights and radars, these are relatively expensive," Bruning said.

The next step is to collect data to see if this could be expanded throughout the state successfully. 

"We'll just have to wait and see what we come up with as maybe being one of the best locations. But we are always open for feedback," Bruning said.

RELATED: New Ohio task force focuses on statewide wrong-way crashes