I’ve posted about the surge in North Texas wrong-way crashes and the catastrophic nature of these collisions, which took the lives of 102 people and injured 251 people in 2015 in our state. And I’ve pointed out that little, if anything, was being done to prevent these usually horrific head-on collisions.
So once again at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning in Southlake, another presumably drunk driver speeding the wrong way crashed into a SUV. He or she tragically killed its two occupants and seriously injured a third person. Here’s a photo of the scene at State Highway 114 near Kimball Avenue courtesy of CBSDFW.com. My prayers go out to the families.
But a wreck exactly like this one at the exact same location happened a few years ago, also killing two people. And far too many others have happened in North Texas.
So it’s great news that Texas is finally implementing a solution. The Department of Transportation is installing high-tech signs on 24 ramps here in Tarrant County and other cities across Texas. Sensors detect a vehicle travelling the wrong way which triggers flashing LED lights. Hopefully the driver will realize his mistake and and pull over.
The sensors will also alert the central command center, which will send messages streaming across boards to warn other drivers of the oncoming peril they face.
Further, the sensors immediately notify police in the area so they can try to stop the driver before he crashes into somebody.
This photo shows what this would look like to you as you would be seeing as you drove towards the oncoming vehicle.
One of the most frightening aspects of a wrong-way collision is that other drivers don’t see it coming. Even the most careful driver does not expect to see a car coming straight toward her on a highway at 60 or 70 MPH. By the time she sees the vehicle, the combined speeds of the two cars often makes an evasive response impossible.
The first priority is getting the driver’s attention. The current big red signs that say “Wrong Way” often escape the notice of tired, confused and especially drunk drivers. The new signs will be hard to miss. If the driver doesn’t see the flashing lights, other drivers will at least now know to beware and police will know to swing into action.
In addition, TxDOT will implement a plan it announced last year to install “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs at eye level. The idea is that drivers are not looking up or around, but straight ahead at the road, so the signs should be low enough to catch their attention. Another good idea.