States try new approaches to stop wrong-way drivers

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Posted at 11:04 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 23:21:36-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Investigators in Southeastern Kentucky are trying to figure out what led a driver to head the wrong way down I-75, ultimately smashing head-on into another car and killing three people. The driver survived the crash with serious injuries. Different states are trying ways to warn other drivers or alert authorities of wrong-way drivers faster.

Around 11:00 Monday night, dispatchers in Laurel County got a 911 call about a truck driving north in the southbound lanes of I-75 around 11:00 last night. By the time deputies got into the area, the truck had smashed into a car head-on. Three people in the car were killed. The truck driver survived and is in the hospital.

"There was absolutely nothing left of either vehicle. They were totally demolished like a bomb had went off," said Deputy Gilbert Acciardo.

Kentucky has seen a few head-on crashes like this in the last year or so. In June of last year, six people died in a head-on crash on I-75 in Lexington. In April of last year, one person died when she was driving the wrong way and collided head-on with a Lexington Police officer on New Circle Road.

According to a study by AAA, head-on crash fatalities have risen over the last several years. From 2004 to 2009, an average of 360 people died each year in wrong-way crashes across the country. From 2010 to 2018, that average rose to more than 430.

Several states are trying to find ways to stop this from happening. The Ohio Department of Transportation is working on an alert system at 25 on-ramps along I-71 and I-90 near Cleveland. Wrong-way signs will flash when a wrong-way driver is detected on interstate on-ramps. A detector will see if the vehicle continues down the ramp, and if so, will activate more flashing lights.

Each location will also include a camera that sends a video clip to the state traffic management center with an alert. Ohio first tested this in Cincinnati, where the state said most of the 50 or so drivers who've triggered the system, were stopped before they got onto the highway.