State using new technology to curb wrong-way driving on West Michigan freeway

If a driver goes the wrong way onto the freeway, the wrong-way signs will begin flashing to alert them (Photo: MDOT)

The addition of new technology aims to stop drivers from going the wrong way on a Grand Rapids freeway.

Detection systems have been added to off-ramps from US-131 through downtown Grand Rapids. If a driver is going the wrong way onto the freeway between Ann Street and 28th, lights will flash on the wrong-way signs, cameras will start recording, and police will be notified. The Michigan Department of Transportation said similar technology is already in place on other parts of the freeway. 

"It's always astonishing and horrific when these types of crashes happen, but we're going to continue our proactive efforts to reduce the risk," said MDOT Grand Region Engineer Erick Kind. "We identified this 6-mile section of US-131 as the highest concentration of traffic, bars, nightlife, and other entertainment areas."

This effort comes as wrong-way crashes, which are often deadly, are increasing. MDOT cited data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that shows that there were 2,008 deaths from wrong-way driving crashes on divided highways between 2015 and 2018, an average of approximately 500 deaths a year, up 34% compared to the previous four years. 

Wrong-way driving is not only a problem on US-131. In Metro Detroit, recent wrong-way driving crashes have killed several people.


Video shows wrong-way driver before head-on crash that killed one on I-696

The suspect driver was allegedly intoxicated when they crashed. They are also believed to have been driving with a suspended license.

Last month, a wrong-way driver died after crashing into a pickup truck on the ramp from the Lodge to I-75 in Detroit. In August, two people were killed in unrelated wrong-way crashes within hours on I-75. A similar situation happened in May, with two fatal wrong-way crashes happening within 24 hours on I-696.

"Whether caused by alcohol, drugs, or confusion, wrong-way driving is a serious problem," said F/Lt. Matt Williams, commander of the MSP Grand Rapids Post.

In addition to the detection systems, MDOT has taken other steps to reduce wrong-way driving, including adding reflective strips to signs, lowering signs to make them easier to see, and adding turn guideline markings at ramps where the on and off ramps are adjacent.

Watch FOX 2 News Live