Wrong-way driving crashes are on the decline in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties, but traffic safety advocates know it’s not enough. Even one innocent person killed or seriously injured as a result of these wholly preventable collisions is one too many.
Just last month on I-95 at Miami Gardens Drive, five people were killed when a 23-year-old woman was traveling the wrong direction, sideswiped one car and slammed into another head-on. According to ABC Local-10, the impact killed a family of four in the other vehicle, as well as the young wrong-way driver. Among those killed were two college professors from Connecticut, a 71-year-old grandmother. Three others, including a newlywed, were injured.
In Miami-Dade, the number of wrong-way wrecks slid from 181 in 2014 to 168 in 2015. In Broward, the number fell from 167 in 2012 to 112 in 2015, according to The Miami Herald.
A 2015 report on the issue showed 45 percent of wrong-way drivers are intoxicated, though authorities don’t yet know whether alcohol was a factor in this latest crash. It’s spurred renewed discussion about some of the ways transportation officials might continue to drive down the number of fatal wrong-way crashes.
Part of this effort has involved a $400,000 statewide pilot program launched by the Florida Department of Transportation in October 2014 that involves trying several different approaches to the issue over the next three years on the Florida Turnpike. For example, because we know that so many of these wrong-way drivers are drunk, and we know that drunk drivers tend to have a smaller “cone of vision” than sober people, officials are using an approach that will unmistakably signal, “Something isn’t right.” That has involved equipping six interchanges and 10 ramps on the Miami-Dade stretch of turnpike with huge, rectangular red “wrong-way” signs. These signs are constructed with solar power technology and radar functions on either side. So in addition to the large sign, a radar will detect if someone enters going the wrong way. That will trigger a bright red flashing LED light, and an internal camera will snap five photographs of the vehicle. Those images are then immediately sent to the Florida Highway Patrol dispatch, who can then send a trooper if the car doesn’t immediately turn around.
So far, those signs have tallied 23 wrong-way instances. In 22 of those cases, the driver recognized the error and immediately turned themselves around. In one case, though, last November, the driver kept going and it resulted in a fatal traffic collision.
In other regions, such as St. Petersburg and Tampa, officials have affixed flashing red strobe lights on the “wrong-way” signs, with the lights being triggered when someone enters the wrong way.
On Florida’s Panhandle, the DOT is trying out a strategy that involves placing long, reflective strips on the road. They’re white when you’re traveling the correct direction, but reflect red when you’re going the wrong way.
Although some have discussed spikes on ramps that would disable wrong way vehicles by shredding their tires, that’s been largely dismissed as an option because there are some instances in which emergency vehicles travel the wrong way on ramps in order to get to a highway crash scene faster.
An April 2015 FDOT report on statewide wrong-way crashes indicates the following characteristics are strongly correlated:
- Impaired driving
- Late night/ early morning
- Driving on the weekends
- Urban areas
- Multiple-vehicle crashes
- Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 and those over 65
Statewide, there were more than 6,300 wrong-way accidents between 2009 and 2013.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Road warriors look for a right way to prevent wrong-way wrecks, Jan. 19, 2016, By Alex Harris, The Miami-Herald
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