The challenge of drivers choosing to drive the opposite direction on public thoroughfares is causing concern statewide. Among the places targeted for attention is Richland County.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks have announced that a first-of-its-kind system to detect and deter wrong-way drivers in Ohio is being installed along an 18-mile stretch of I-71 in Hamilton County. It includes 92 electronic signs and 82 detection devices at 23 locations from downtown Cincinnati to Fields-Ertel Road.

When the system is activated, LED lights around the edge of several “wrong way” and “do not enter” signs begin blinking. An alert is also sent to the Ohio Department of Transportation Traffic Management Center in Columbus.

“Although wrong-way crashes are rare, they are often deadly, and I believe that investing in this new technology will reduce the number of drivers traveling the wrong way on our interstates, prevent crashes, and save lives,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Improving our roadways to enhance driver safety is essential for improving the quality of life for people who live, work, and travel in our state, and this project is an important step forward for Ohio.”

While wrong way crashes made up only 0.01 percent of all crashes in Ohio last year, they are 40 times more likely to be deadly.

“This section of I-71 was selected using criteria that includes 911 calls, wrong-way and alcohol crashes, the number of alcohol establishments located within close proximity, and ramp traffic volumes,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks.

This is the first time these detection devices have been installed as a system in the state of Ohio. Two other stand-alone devices, one on the exit from westbound I-670 to Neil Avenue in Columbus and the other on the exit from westbound SR-2 to West 28th Street in Cleveland, have been pilot tested with positive results.

“Not only do these devices add another layer to alert drivers that they’re driving in the wrong direction, they allow us to capture data about where these drivers are trying to enter our highways,” Marchbanks said.

ODOT has been targeting highway ramps in 17 Ohio counties: Cuyahoga, Belmont, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Richland, Stark, Trumbull, and Wood with additional signage, reflectivity, and striping. Over the past decade, 82 percent of the wrong way crashes in Ohio have occurred in these counties. These counties also include a high number of highway interchanges.

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