CINCINNATI – New technology is helping law enforcement catch oncoming drivers faster in the hopes of avoiding dangerous head-on collisions.
Just after 9 a.m. on Monday, May 31, Kelsey Peterson, 25, was driving south in the northbound lanes of I-71 – dodging and weaving between cars for several miles before finally being pulled over .
Sgt. Matthew Allard of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said a soldier at another traffic stop heard the general call on his radio.
“It looked like it was going to cause a head-on collision,” Allard said. “What this soldier did was put himself in danger (by) standing in front of oncoming traffic. Turn on his lights to slow everyone down.
It was enough to slow Peterson down, turning what could have been a head-on collision into a minor accident.
“It allowed us to actively put a plan in place, as it happened rather than being reactive to it,” Allard said.
He said this is a case where technology is used in the right way to save a life. Sensors installed on I-71, starting from the Lytle Tunnel and extending 18 miles north to Fields Ertel Road, trigger reverse traffic signs on exit ramps to alert drivers that they are make a mistake on the road.
The signs are installed at three feet and seven feet in height, as studies have shown that impaired drivers tend to look down more often. The signs are meant to grab the attention of drivers even before they get on the freeway.
After a car traveling in the wrong direction takes its last breath, a camera turns on and the transportation management system outside of Columbus is notified. From there, a general call is made.
“The cameras will notify the transportation management center, allowing ODOT to position the cameras on the oncoming car,” Allard said. “This allows us to see live where the vehicle is. “
The system has been in place for two years, according to Ohio Department of Transportation press secretary Matt Bruning has prevented more than a dozen drivers from using the freeway in the wrong direction. Monday is the first time ODOT has known that it hasn’t deterred a wrong way driver. Before the technology update, 911 calls were the only alert to emergency crews on the road.
“It helps us by giving us real-time information on the location of this vehicle,” Allard said. “A lot of times if it’s a caller and they’re going in the opposite direction, we’ve lost that real-time data. This allows us to attempt to intercept the vehicle before it crashes with another individual. “
Currently, the I-71 corridor through Cincinnati is the only stretch of road using the sensor system.