AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Wrong way crashes make up three percent of collisions on divided highways. “That is probably the most tragic accident you can see on a roadway, the injuries are more horrific and it leaves families devastated.” said Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority executive director Mike Heiligenstein.
The crashes are more likely to result in serious injuries, even death.
Approximately 360 people die in them each year. But Heiligenstein is hoping that will soon change. The mobility authority is investing in new technology to prevent wrong way crashes.
Expect to see the technology on the new SH 45 SW toll road this weekend.
It will be the first time the technology makes an appearance in Texas.
Keep an eye out for the TAPCO thermal sensors along the road. If they detect a car driving the wrong way, lights will begin to flash, if they continue driving the wrong way, authorities will be notified and can even get photos showing the make and model of the car.
A Siemens roadside unit can help them get there. “We can use [the unit] to turn lights green to the first responders so they can get to the incident faster, and we can use it to give routing information.” said Siemens Principal Systems Engineer, Dave Miller.
If you buy a new car in two years, that roadside unit may also connect to your car. All four major U.S. auto manufacturers signed on to allow connectivity through Sirius xm radios. That means if you’re driving the wrong way, or someone else is, you’ll see warnings pop up there.
“We can’t always prevent wrong way driving, certain situations happen, but what we can do is set people up for success.” said TAPCO marketing communications manager, Steve Paulus.
Heiligenstein says the Central Texas Regional Authority is committed to investing in this type of technology for “every road that needs it.” He then went on to explain that he could “not imagine a road” that the technology would not be appropriate for.
He cited 183 and 183A in the Cedar Park area as a “great candidate.”
Heiligenstein explained that a study in San Antonio showed the authority that after “night time establishments closed,” and people left, wrong way crashes were most likely to occur. 70 percent occuring between 12 a.m. and 2 a.m. For this reason, he says there will be an elevated focus on the time period. With more people on standby to respond to potential emergency situations.