Thousands of Americans have been killed in wrong-way crashes in recent years, a phenomenon that has been rising. In Arizona alone, according to AAA, there were 72 wrong-way crashes recorded from 2010 to 2018. That may not sound like many, but they killed 107 people. These are very deadly and difficult to prevent, although the state is working on the problem.
Something common in wrong-ways is they often happen on divided highways and are head-on, leading to multiple fatalities. Not surprisingly, alcohol is often involved.
The Arizona Department of Transportation is launching a project to install larger, more visible “wrong way” and “do not enter” signs in central and southern Arizona, on Interstates 8, 10 and 19. The replacement signs at freeway exit ramps also will be closer to the ground. Part of the area where the new signs will be placed is in Pinal County, in the Casa Grande area.
The work, done with federal highway safety funds, also will include white pavement arrows to show the correct direction of travel.
In the Phoenix area, a newer innovation will be added: a thermal-camera wrong-way alert system along some freeway segments.
Careful drivers try to anticipate bad things that can happen on the road, but wrong-way drivers are difficult to avoid. Keeping them on the right side means safer roads.
Arizona’s highways are much more crowded than they used to be. Speeding and careless and aggressive drivers make things bad enough. But wrong-way drivers are especially dangerous. Tougher enforcement against drunk driving in recent years has helped, but it always will be there, unfortunately. The state’s effort with signage is appreciated. And no doubt technology in this area will continue to develop as well, as it now has provided a much better dust warning system in the Picacho area that has been a danger point for decades.
— Donovan Kramer Jr.