SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Whether they're under the influence or just confused, drivers heading the wrong way on the freeway can be deadly. The California Department of Transportation has a new pilot program looking for ways to prevent wrong-way crashes.
"It's shocking," said Benjamin Lara, who told CBS13 that he's encountered a wrong-way driver in the past. "This individual, this driver doesn't know that they're in the wrong way and it's a head-on collision, depending on the speed, of course."
During the first half of last year, there were four different fatal crashes in Sacramento, all because of drivers going the wrong way on the freeway.
"Overall, a wrong-way driver causing serious accidents, they're actually one-tenth of one percent of all crashes involved on the interstates," said Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton. "But because they are so serious when they do occur, they bring to light that it's an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately."
This year, Caltrans is testing a new monitoring and warning system to try to prevent future tragedies. The Wrong-Way Driver Pilot program includes larger Do Not Enter signs, which will replace smaller signs on the exit ramps. Above the signs are sensors; one on each side of the ramp.
"The first sensor detects the vehicle, the second sensor starts tracking the vehicle," Keaton said. "It allows us to notify the California Highway Patrol or other law enforcement agencies of what direction they're on and what highway they're on. It's going to be tied into units. That's how the units are going to be able to find out and also know about it through the 911 dispatch."
Part of the pilot involves figuring out the best technology to use to notify officers as soon as a wrong-way driver is detected. New reflectors have also been installed. Previously, only orange reflectors lined one side of the ramp. Now, white reflectors line both lanes and people driving the wrong way will see the red on the reflector alerting them to turn around.
"I think that's smart, that's great," Lara said.
"That will be nice; that will be safe for everybody driving on the roads," said Raul Soto, a Sacramento driver.
Right now, there are four locations in Sacramento County (including the Highway 50 exit ramp on 5th and X streets) and two in Yolo County with this technology. Caltrans plans to install cameras at each location to get a clear picture of the car and its plates.
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