TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida Department of Transportation said it's making progress in preventing wrong-way crashes that have claimed the lives of four USF fraternity brothers in 2014, a heroic Tampa police officer last year, and others over the years.
With the goal of preventing future tragedies, FDOT is investing millions of dollars in upgrading exit ramps throughout Tampa Bay. Kris Carson, a spokesperson for FDOT District Seven, said the department is installing wrong-way signage detection systems.
In recent days, nightly lane closures on various I-275, I-4, and I-75 ramps allowed for crews to complete some of the work.
“The goal in actually the next two to three years is to have every ramp in the Tampa Bay area covered with these signs,” she said.
According to Carson, the detection system uses a thermal imaging camera to detect when a driver travels in the wrong direction up an exit ramp onto an interstate or expressway. The imaging system then triggers red flashing lights, which attempt to catch a driver’s attention and divert him or her off of the roadway. Other drivers are warned of the potential danger using dynamic messaging signs. The system also alerts the Florida Highway Patrol.
“The State of Florida is really at the forefront of the nation with what we’re doing to combat wrong-way drivers,” said Carson. “We want to give very quick warnings, and again, hopefully, we’re stopping these drivers from even getting on the interstate by putting all these devices on all ramps in the Tampa Bay area.”
In many wrong-way crashes, drivers are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Carson said it might not be possible to stop the most seriously impaired drivers, but she said — as FDOT continues to install the detection systems — the department is noticing that more than 70% of wrong-way drivers are self-correcting.
“We want to get this done,” Carson said. “We’re spending millions of dollars to implement this with the whole goal is to save lives.”