NewsDriving Tampa Bay Forward


DTBF TIP LINE: Why doesn't FDOT use spike strips to prevent wrong-way crashes?

Posted at 1:01 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 13:01:25-04

In the past couple of weeks, we've had a number of wrong-way crashes on Tampa Bay area highways.

Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen was killed by a speeding and impaired wrong-way driver on I-275 on March 9. Chief Brian Dugan said Madsen deliberately put his vehicle into the path of the wrong-way driver to protect others.


Many of you have called into our Driving Tampa Bay Forward Tipline to ask why the state doesn't use spike strips on entrance/exit ramps to prevent this.

In fact, FDOT says they get this question multiple times a month, too!

Here's their answer:

Tire-spike barriers have been tested to determine if they could be used at off-ramps to stop vehicles from entering the wrong way and they were found to be unsuitable. The spikes, even when modified in shape, did not cause the tires to deflate quickly enough to prevent a vehicle from entering the freeway. Also, under high-volume traffic, the spikes broke, leaving stubs that damaged the tires of right-way driving vehicles. In addition, if law enforcement vehicles or emergency medical personnel need to travel up a ramp in the wrong direction to assist motorists etc. – this would prevent them from doing so. Tire spike strips are designed for very low-speed locations. They are effective when used in parking lots and parking garages. They are intended for installation at locations where speeds do not exceed 5 mph. They are not designed to work at high-speed, high-volume traffic locations such as freeway exit ramps.

The Florida Department of Transportation currently has active projects in the Tampa Bay area to try and help address wrong-way crashes. These programs include flashing signs at exit ramps with radar detection, which trigger and notify the driver they are traveling in the wrong direction. Once triggered, an alert is immediately sent to FDOT and law enforcement officials, and a wrong-way driver alert is broadcast on the electronic message boards along the interstate system. Another component of the pilot programs is the increase in wrong-way signage, roadway reflectors and large painted pavement markings to help motorists identify the proper entrance and exit ramps of the interstate.