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Preventing Wrong-Way Driving Gets a Tech Assist

Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office plans to implement technology that warns wrong-way drivers.

by / October 10, 2012
LED wrong-way signs will be placed in two locations of Milwaukee, County, Wis., roadways. Photo courtesy of the County Sheriff's Office.

The Milwaukee County, Wis., Sheriff’s Office hopes to curb wrong-way driving with new LED warning signs and real-time notification alerts.

“There is no greater danger facing motorists than having another car coming at them head-on at freeway speeds, with only seconds to react,” said Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke during a press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

The Sheriff’s Office, which partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on the project, announced that a wireless alert notification system was set up on nine freeway entry ramps in the county. The system’s motion sensors determine if a vehicle is driving in the wrong direction. “Breach” notifications are sent instantly by the system to the State Traffic Operations Center and the Sheriff’s Office so that dispatchers can alert authorities that can respond to the incident.

For two of the nine on-ramps, flashing LED signs will be installed that alert drivers that they are entering oncoming traffic. The signs, called BlinkerSign, are from Brown Deer, Wis.-based vendor Traffic and Parking Control Co. (TAPCO). According to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, installation of the signs and alert notifications technology will be completed by Thanksgiving.

During the Tuesday press conference, Clarke said that from 2006 to 2012, the county had recorded a yearly average of 33 wrong-way driving incidents. Eighty percent of them were deemed to be intoxicated at the time. Car crashes obviously are a big concern. One wrong-way driver recently crashed head-on into an off-duty police officer, according local TV station WTMJ.

Andrew Bergholz, TAPCO’s executive vice president of sales, said the wireless system will immediately detect and send a notification to a secure cloud, where individuals with access can information about the wrong-way driving occurrence. The report maps the location and the time of day the incident occurred. In addition, the Department of Transportation has the option to utilize its traffic cameras where the TAPCO technology was implemented.

Although this type of detection system isn’t brand new, Bergholz said it isn’t nationwide.  So far TAPCO has installed similar systems in parts of Texas and has worked  with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to implement the technology along the U.S./Mexico border near San Diego, Calif.

Last year, the Arizona Department of Transportation began testing new technologies to prevent wrong-way driving after a string of deaths resulting from vehicle accidents.


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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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