There are many things that can go wrong when driving. You can encounter an intoxicated driver or a speeder, driving far too fast. There are fatigued drivers and those that are distracted by texting or some type of electronic device. One of the most frightening is the wrong way driver. When you are on a controlled-access highway, such as Interstate 20, 30, 35 or US 75 in the Dallas area, such an encounter could be deadly.
The design of an interstate-type road adds to the risk, as once a driver heads down an off ramp, motorists in the lane traveling the correct direction have few options to safely avoid such a driver, as there may be no exits available. While there is little that can be changed in the overall design of these roads, there are many enhancements that can be made to lessen the likelihood of these drivers and the devastating crashes they cause.
Dallas and Tarrant Counties have some the highest prevalence of wrong way drivers in Texas, and in 2015, more than 1,000 crashes in Texas killed 65 motorists. While drunk driving is a primary factor, some studies have found that older drivers can be confused at night, leading to wrong-way incidents.
A local Dallas TV station reported that recommendations had been made for a decade on methods to prevent these crashes, but TxDOT had failed to implement any of them in the Dallas area. That investigation seems to have prompted some movement, and TxDOT has begun to install improved signs and other warning systems that could help prevent wrong-way drivers.
These drivers are often intoxicated and may be disoriented by near an entrance or exit ramps. The TxDOT is installing new LED warning signs on some ramps that will sense a wrong way driver and flash intensely to warn them. The sensors will also alert the TxDOT traffic command center to place alert notices on the light-up message signs located on the highways to warn other drivers. The system also alerts the police to the occurrence.
Other changes involve “wrong way” signs that are mounted lower to the ground, where the will show up in headlights. California found the use of these signs helped to reduce these crashes.