Columbus — Officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Tuesday that a first-of-its-kind system to detect and deter wrong-way drivers will be installed along an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 71 in Hamilton County.
The system will include 92 electronic signs and 82 detection devices at 23 locations from downtown Cincinnati to Fields-Ertel Road.
ODOT officials said when the system is activated LED lights around the edge of several “wrong way” and “do not enter” signs will begin to flash. An alert will also be sent to ODOT’s Traffic Management Center in Columbus.
“Although wrong-way crashes are rare, they are often deadly, and I believe that investing in this new technology will reduce the number of drivers traveling the wrong way on our interstates, prevent crashes, and save lives,” DeWine said. “Improving our roadways to enhance driver safety is essential for improving the quality of life for people who live, work, and travel in our state, and this project is an important step forward for Ohio.”
According to state officials, while wrong-way crash made up less than 1 percent of all crashes in Ohio last year, they are 40 times more likely to be fatal.
“This section of I-71 was selected using criteria that includes 911 calls, wrong-way and alcohol crashes, the number of alcohol establishments located within close proximity, and ramp traffic volumes," said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks.
This will be the first time these detection devices have been installed as a system in Ohio. Officials said two other standalone devices in Columbus and in Cleveland have been tested with positive results.
"Not only do these devices add another layer to alert drivers that they're driving in the wrong direction, they allow us to capture data about where these drivers are trying to enter our highways," Marchbanks said.
ODOT has been targeting highway ramps in 16 Ohio counties: Cuyahoga, Belmont, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Richland, Stark, Trumball and Wood with additional signage, reflectivity and striping.
Over the past decade, 82 percent of wrong-way crashes in Ohio have occurred in these counties, ODOT says.
The Miami Valley has seen a number of wrong-way crashes, including some that have turned fatal. On St. Patrick’s day, Abby Michaels is accused of driving the wrong way on Interstate 75 in Moraine and colliding with another vehicle, killing three members of a Mason family. Michaels was arraigned Tuesday morning and received a $3 million bond.