Can Austin Fix Its Wrong-Way Crash Problem?

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We recently published a blog discussing how local authorities are taking steps to prevent drunk driving accidents in Austin. Drunk drivers are far more likely to cause a certain type of accident that is notorious for causing catastrophic injuries and deaths. Statistics published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) show that a majority of wrong-way crashes in the US are caused by drunk drivers. The same is true here in Austin.

Several recent wrong-way crashes in Austin involved drunk drivers. We covered a few of these accidents on last week’s blog. The incident where three family members died involved a wrong-way driver. In late February, another drunk driver severely injured a woman during a wrong-way crash.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Central Texas Regional Mobile Authority have taken steps to warn drivers when they enter the wrong side of the freeway. In 2016, the agencies lowered “Do Not Enter” signs at multiple exit ramps in Central Texas, including I-35, 183A and 290. Reflectors, which reflect headlights, were also installed at these locations.

Could more be done by TxDOT and other transportation authorities in Austin? Programs in North Carolina and California may serve as examples. Both states have not only increased the visibility of Do Not Enter signs, they have also installed cameras and set up systems that notify law enforcement when drivers enter the wrong side of the road.

San Antonio is installing a wrong-way detection system on four ramps across the city. The system uses three radars and a camera to detect drivers who are coming down the exit ramps. Authorities are notified once the radars and cameras confirm a wrong-way driver. San Antonio also utilizes a smart highway system where operators hunt for wrong-way drivers. According to a recent article, the program recently recorded its 65th save, meaning it stopped a wrong-way driver.

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