NDOT installs wrong-way driver detection system

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) As a pilot program, the Nevada Department of Transportation has installed additional flashing warning signals and detection systems on 20 U.S. 395 ramps in the North Valleys. The system uses radar and closed-circuit cameras to automatically detect vehicles entering in the wrong direction, activating two sets of red flashing wrong-way signs on the ramp.

"In a recent 10-year period there were 75 deaths related to wrong-way driving in Nevada; we want to curb that," NDOT's Meg Ragonese says.

The Transportation Research Board reports an average of 360 deaths nationwide every year due to wrong-way driver crashes. In more than half of wrong-way crashes, wrong-way drivers are impaired by alcohol. Between January 1, 2005 and January 1, 2015, there were 409 wrong-way crashes in Nevada.

The cost of the program is about $100,000 per ramp. Some drivers say they feel it's worth it.

"You definitely see people doing it so it's not like it doesn't happen so it's not like the money is going to waste," Orrin Tripp, a local driver, says.

Nevada is one of a handful of states testing the wrong-way driver detection systems. Preliminary research shows such systems are 80% effective in stopping wrong-way drivers.

The detection system is part of an NDOT project to install additional traffic cameras, highway message signs, traffic and weather sensors and more, to help keep drivers safer and more informed of road conditions on U.S. 395 from the spaghetti bowl north to the Nevada-California state line.