Fla. researchers investigate ‘detection-driven’ countermeasures for wrong-way driving

Updated Nov 5, 2018
Florida researchers are investigating smart signs and other counter-measures to address the problem of wrong-way driving. Photo: FSUFlorida researchers are investigating smart signs and other counter-measures to address the problem of wrong-way driving. Photo: FSU

To combat wrong-way driving, Florida researchers are helping to identify “smarter” signs as well as pavement markers equipped with advanced technology that could reduce crashes.

Walter Boot, associate professor in the Florida State University Department of Psychology and an expert on cognition and perception, has compiled two wrong-way driving reports for the Florida Department of Transportation. They could shape future countermeasures for wrong-way driving, according to the university news service.

The Florida Department of Transportation is currently testing those and other recommendations on the most effective safety measures.

“This is a no-brainer,” Boot is quoted as saying. “We need to develop, test and install more visible countermeasures against wrong-way driving. We tested new technology-based, radar-triggered road alerts to determine which worked best. The evidence we collected suggested these detection-triggered countermeasures will be more effective than traditional wrong-way countermeasures.”

The team, working in collaboration with the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida and Florida International University, evaluated seven high-tech countermeasures. They included radar-triggered blank signs that immediately lit up when they sensed wrong-way motion, as well as flashing beacons.

Nationwide, wrong-way crashes kill about 350 people a year and injure thousands more, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Boot started collecting that evidence as part of a contract with the state Department of Transportation following an unusual series of deadly wrong-way crashes in the Tampa Bay region in 2014, the news release says.

“Boot was determined to reverse this chronic trend of wrong-way driving, which dates to the 1960s and the original construction of access-controlled divided highways,” says the university’s writer, Dave Heller, in the press release.

“He embarked on a multiyear research project drawing on his expertise in visual processing and visual cognition to test detection-triggered wrong-way signs and pavement markers. The goal was to identify ‘intelligent’ technology that would better detect and prevent wrong-way driving and could be incorporated into new warning systems.

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“His research team found that installing more countermeasures ahead of exit ramps helped, but additional warnings were needed to grab motorists’ attention once they started driving in the wrong direction.

“The next line of defense would be to install alerts that could cause wrong-way drivers to recognize their mistake, stop driving and turn around,” says the university story..