FDOT working on solutions to wrong-way crashes in Tampa

Photo: FHP

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – The wrong-way crash that killed two drivers on the Ashley exit ramp of Interstate 275 in Tampa Friday morning is far from the first incident of this kind. The Florida DOT has tracked dozens of such crashes since 2008 and has started doing something to mitigate the danger.

In a pilot program initiated after a rash of crashes two years ago, including the deaths of four college students, the DOT has installed a dozen electronic warning signs around Tampa Interstate exits that activate a flashing beacon when radar sensors detect a wrong-way driver entering an exit ramp.

Tampa Bay area wrong-way crashes 2008-2016 (Information courtesy FDOT)

Click on the map locator to find out the details about the crash

The beacons also take photos of the vehicle that are beamed to the DOT’s traffic control center in Tampa and the FHP so they can respond quickly and identify the wrong way vehicle. The system also activates message boards that warn other motorists.

There are plans to install more than 80 additional flashing beacon systems at other exit ramps but the system is still under study for effectiveness.

“We just want to make sure these flashing signs are the best product to put in,” said DOT Spokeswoman Kris Carson. “We don’t want to spend that kind of money it’s $70,000 per interchange we want to make sure it’s working first.”

The FHP endorses the system but the agency spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins tells us that’s not the only solution, and doesn’t solve the problem of drunk drivers.

“That’s where we’re putting a lot of our focus on,” said Gaskins. “Not just people are missing the turns and it’s just somebody’s fault for not having a sign out there these are people who are taking a massive risk putting themselves and everyone else in jeopardy.”

The Florida Turnpike system credits the beacon system with averting 22 out of 23 wrong way crashes. Eventually, warning beacons may end up on every state highway exit.

“It may come to that,” said Carson. “We may have to do that if we feel this is working right now we have them at about a dozen ramps we want to make sure this is working before we spend millions more on this.”

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