ADOT: Wrong-way detection system pretty effective

ADOT officials say a first-of-its-kind wrong way detection system that features thermal cameras seems to be pretty effective.

The system, which was installed along a section of I-17, went online back in January. In March, Governor Ducey signed a new law in March, calling for stricter penalties for wrong way drivers, with impaired drivers facing up to 2.5 years in prison.

The Governor was also seeking $1.4 million to boost nighttime freeway patrols, and that's before the full implementation of a system that features a haunting sound at ADOT, which alert workers to look at the thermal cameras.

"When you're talking about folks with severe impairment, alcohol and drugs, combination of both, I'm not sure you can put up enough signs and lights," said John Halikowski with ADOT.

Halikowski knows, however, it's still happening. Even as he spoke with FOX 10 a year ago, the idea of a thermal system to detect drivers getting on the wrong side of the freeway was still in the planning stages. Now, with more signs, more lights, and alarm sounds, more bells and whistles to get the attention of authorities, state officials are more prepared than ever.

The system had picked out 15 wrong way drivers, and saved saving dozens of lives. However, this weekend's crash on the I-10, south of the valley, is a reminder that there's a long way to go.

"We've got population growth, we've got more freeway system here in the valley than we did in 1990, and we have almost 500 ramps that feed into that system on and off," said Halikowski. "I think all those factors, coupled together with this impairment issue are why we're seeing this."

ADOT officials say it will look at the 15-mile stretch of the I-17, and see how well the $4 million system is working. The goal is to place a similar system on the South Mountain Freeway when it opens a year from now.