Wrong-way crashes don’t happen that frequently – but when they do, they’re often deadly.
California Highway Patrol provisional data shows that in 2015 and 2016, there were a combined 490 wrong-way collisions, and 11 percent of those collisions resulted in peoples’ deaths.
“Unfortunately, when there is a collision, it’s pretty horrific,” said Caltrans spokesman Gilbert Mohtes-Chan.
Caltrans’ focus on stopping wrong-way drivers is not new. But ever-improving technology has created new opportunities for the agency.
In February, Caltrans launched a wrong-way driver detection program and six locations in the Sacramento area were set up with motion-detection sensors.
When the sensors are set off, oversized “wrong way” signs located nearby flash blinking lights. Photos and videos are sent to Caltrans and to California Highway Patrol, which can then send officers to the location.
In more than six months since it launched, the pilot program has had three detections of wrong-way drivers. Caltrans believes one driver, on April 17, was successfully stopped by the blinking lights on the sign.
“In one of them, we were fairly confident they turned around. The pulled over on the other side, waited awhile, and went off in the right direction,” said Mohtes-Chan.
Edgar Bravo, who lists his older brother Fernando Bravo Maya in February, says he’s doubtful the system could help in many cases, since often drivers are under the influence. But he says Caltrans should try as many deterrents as possible.
“It affected not only me, but a lot of people,” said Bravo. “My family, and the wrong-way driver’s family.”
Mohtes-Chan says the detection program has also been launched in San Diego. If both locations prove to be successful over time, he says additional sensors could be spread in other high-risk areas around the state.