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A new pilot system is implemented to combat wrong way driver fatalities

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Department of Transportation is piloting a wrong way driving alert system.

Delaware experienced a sharp increase in fatal wrong way driving crashes in 2022. 7 fatal crashes claimed a total of 12 lives.

DelDOT’s CR McLeod says this system is a direct response to that increase, and part of their initiative to implement improvements statewide to deter wrong way entries onto highways.

“Last year we tied a 30 year high in terms of the number of fatalities we saw on our roadways,” said McLeod. “So we're really looking at every possible way that we can help reduce the number of fatal crashes that we’re seeing. And wrong way crashes are usually ones that end with fatalities.”

Delaware Department of Transportation

The pilot system was installed in Dover at the Exit 95 off-ramp from SR 1 NB to Bay Road and SR 10 (E Lebanon Road) near the Dover Air Force Base North Gate. This area has historically caused motorists confusion as they try to enter Route 1, and is a particularly dangerous place for wrong way driving to occur.

Sensors and cameras are in place to detect a driver going the wrong way, causing a series of reactions. Red lights will flash on “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs facing the wrong way driver to alert them of their mistake.

The cameras alert DelDOT’s 24/7 Transportation Management Center, allowing them to dispatch Delaware State Police and post messages on signs to alert other motorists in the area to a possible wrong way driver.

“We’re really trying to alert the drivers, alert state police, alert our team, and hopefully alert the driver that has made that mistake that they are going the wrong way,” explained McLeod, adding that the system was implemented based on its success in other states.

It cost $125,000, which came from DelDOT’s capital transportation program.

“For us it’s money well-spent. If it prevents one wrong way driver, it’s worth every penny,” said McLeod.

If effective, this system will be implemented in other areas statewide.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and a graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021