10 reasons why spike strips aren’t used to stop wrong-way drivers

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2019 @ 1:36 PM

While the Ohio Department of Transportation is increasing signage and coming up with new technology to help alert drivers that they’re traveling the wrong way, there’s one method they aren’t exploring: spike strips.

With more than a dozen deaths in the last four years from wrong-way crashes in the Dayton area, officials are looking for ways to stop wrong-way drivers before the situation turns fatal.

While the Ohio Department of Transportation is increasing signage and coming up with new technology to help alert drivers that they’re traveling the wrong way, there’s one method they aren’t exploring: spike strips.

>> RELATED: AAA: What to do if you spot a wrong-way driver heading in your direction

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It might seem like a simple solution to some people, but according to Matt Bruning, ODOT press secretary, it just doesn’t work.

“These are not parking lots at a rental location where you're cruising in at 5 miles per hour and you might get a thousand vehicles a day,” he said. “We’re talking in some cases tens of thousands of vehicles and they’re usually doing 25, 35, 40 miles an hour on that ramp to get up to speed.”

He added that Ohio’s climate would make the spikes inefficient. With ice, snow and other debris, the spikes wouldn’t work.

Bruning also cited a study by the Texas Department of Transportation that listed 10 reasons why spike strips don’t stop wrong-way drivers. 

>> RELATED: 3 things to know if you spot a wrong-way driver

The study listed the following reasons the ramps won’t work on highway ramps:

1) Spike strips are designed for very low-speed locations.

2) They do not deflate tires quickly enough to prevent  vehicle from entering the highway.

3) During testing, the spikes broke, leaving stubs that damaged the tires of right-way vehicles.

4) Right-way drivers seeing spike strips in the pavement ahead see them as a hazard and hit  their brakes, creating a dangerous situation.

5) Freezing temperatures may prevent the spikes from folding down when driven over in the right direction.

6) Dirt, debris and other substances build up in the devices, keeping the spikes from fully folding down as intended.

7) The metal surface of the spike strips would be a hazard during rain, mist and ice conditions, due to the lack of traction.

>> RELATED: First wrong-way driver detector corridor launches in Ohio on I-71

8) Even while working, spike strips are dangerous to motorcycles and small cars traveling in the right direction.

9) Because no commercially available spike strip system exists that has been designed for permanent installation on roadways with speeds greater than 5 mph, the cost to pursue this would be extremely high.

10) All traffic control devices installed on highways must be in compliance with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Due to the risk of damaging vehicles traveling in the correct direction and the associated injuries and fatalities for occupants of right way vehicles, such devices are not MUTCD-compliant.

On Wednesday, July 31, News Center 7’s John Bedell is taking a closer look at wrong-way crashes in the Miami Valley and will show you what it looks like to drive the wrong way. Tune in at 5 p.m. for more details.