PHOENIX - Wrong-way drivers have become a big problem here in the Valley and the Arizona Department of Transportation is trying to stop it.
They're adding more signs, flashing lights and a $4 million early warning system that includes thermal cameras, but law enforcement says many wrong-way drivers are severely impaired, and could miss the warning signs.
ADOT implemented the pilot system for its thermal cameras back in 2018.
The system's 90 thermal cameras are positioned to detect wrong-way vehicles entering off-ramps or traveling in areas between the Interstate 10 Stack interchange near Downtown Phoenix and the Loop 101 interchange in North Phoenix.
The high-tech camera system warns other drivers to steer clear of the road when a driver is headed in the wrong direction. With a flashing, illuminated "wrong way" sign, the system also alerts the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
"On Interstate 17, there's been over 100 incursions," said Dallas Hammit, ADOT's Deputy Director for Transportation and a state engineer. "An incursion is where a vehicle leaves the arterial roads, goes toward the ramp. 88% of them are self-correcting for whatever reason -- they saw the sign or they realized they were going the wrong way."
Because of the thermal camera system's success, ADOT plans to expand the technology.
"The future is this is our new standard," Hammit said. "We didn't wait until we finished the pilot, but as soon as we saw success, we started installing it on other freeways."