A new highway is opening in Austin in 2019. State Highway 45 Southwest (SH 45 SW) is billed as an “environmentally sensitive” four-lane toll road that will connect MoPac (State Hwy Loop 1) to FM 1626, and in addition to water quality checks and other environmental initiatives designed to keep the nearby region in good shape, it will also boast a wrong-way detection and notification system. While construction is not yet complete, this may be a significant help toward getting Texas’ problem with wrong-way crashes under control.
Wrong-Way Accidents Are Deadly
One might think that wrong-way accidents would be less common than certain other types of car crashes, and they are, but they are much more deadly than the numbers would suggest. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) examined wrong-way driving nationwide in 2012-13, in which statistics showed that wrong-way crashes were much more likely to be fatal - for example, studies in California and Virginia found that wrong-way crashes were between 12 and 27 times more likely to be fatal than other types of accidents, such as side-impact or head-on.
In Texas specifically, the Texas Transportation Institute has visited the question of what causes wrong-way accidents. Perhaps their most notable finding was that in their sample, drivers who had been drinking or engaged in the use of other substances were overrepresented, making up between half and ¾ of the total number of wrong-way drivers examined. While obviously, it is a good idea to try and reduce the number of wrong-way crashes by cracking down on those who drink and drive, the proposed system to be installed on SH 45 SW prefers to take a proactive approach, sending out alerts both to the driver via red lights, and to law enforcement and other motorists via dispatches and TxDOT active signs....