Crashes involving vehicles going the wrong way on North Carolina highways killed 164 people between 2000 and 2017, according to the state Department of Transportation.
In 2019 the North Carolina Turnpike Authority began an aggressive pilot campaign to reduce and even eliminate these deadly crashes on their road system. They took up both conventional and innovative measures to accomplish this daunting task. From special positioning of conventional Wrong Way signs to outfitting their road system with high tech cameras and sensors that can alert drivers heading the wrong way through flashing lights.
In late 2019 and 2020 the agency was the first Turnpike to install the LaneAlert 2x pavement marking system. These specialized markings effectively communicate to a driver the correct direction of travel prompting a potential wrong way driver to either not enter in the wrong direction or to turn their vehicle around.
Wrong way driving is not just a serious issue in North Carolina but across the Nation and around the world. Over the past decade many studies and resulting countermeasures have been developed. From the simplicity of lowering conventional wrong way signs to the road, to complex detection systems that activate flashing wrong way messages to errant drivers. All have made positive impacts in the reduction of these horrific crashes.
Drivers with fatigue, vision deficiencies and lack of area familiarity contribute to these crashes. But studies agree that the vast majority of these crashes are associated with driver impairments related to age or intoxication.
In both cases, the drivers’ visual focus and peripheral abilities become greatly diminished, limiting their visual attention and focus to the pavement directly in front of their vehicle. As a result, the affected drivers miss conventional visual guidance and warning cues that a non-impaired driver may find obvious.
Many of the current countermeasures are designed with these visual and attention deficiencies in mind. For example, lowering a wrong way sign brings it closer to the pavement and the impaired driver’s peripheral view. A bright flashing warning message works to capture that driver’s limited attention. The use of red/white reflective pavement markers are often effective because they are applied within the driver’s vision tunnel.
The LaneAlert 2x specialized pavement marking is designed to provide the right message, at the right time, to the wrong way driver. It is a durable marking with integrated symbols and messages that provide a clear, concise, and conspicuous warning to the errant driver.
As a retroreflective pavement marking, it maintains a highly visible warning directly within these drivers’ visual tunnel 24 hours a day with no electronic or mechanical dependency. Although the LaneAlert 2x’s bold red symbols and messages are easily seen and understood by the wrong way driver, its unique design causes the visibility of these messages’ to be greatly reduced when viewed by the right way driver, reducing the risk of distraction or confusion of these drivers. Further, when viewed in the right way direction, the LaneAlert 2x often functions as standard MUTCD retroreflective pavement markings, such as lane lines and stop lines.
The LaneAlert 2x was applied on a total of six exit ramps of the Monroe Expressway. The agency will be monitoring the effectiveness of the LaneAlert 2x and has plans to expand their use on the Triangle Expressway in the near future.