The FOX 8 I-Team has obtained exclusive video of a wrong-way driver captured on a series of highway cameras, and the Ohio Department of Transportation says it appeared the driver went the wrong way on some of the area’s busiest freeways for 18 miles or more.
It happened about 4:30 a.m. on Sunday.
ODOT says it appears the driver went the wrong-way on the shoreway, through the innerbelt, and then down I-71. Cameras have since helped piece together the path, but that morning the driver disappeared. ODOT believes the driver somehow turned around or got off perhaps in the area of West 150th.
That morning, a woman called 911 saying, “Come on!” as the dispatcher was answering the phone. The woman added, "I am going on 71 north coming up on Detroit, or 65th and Denison. And there's a wrong-way driver heading southbound on 71 north right now."
Around the same time, FOX 8 employee Chris Jones was heading in to work, and he passed the wrong-way driver. Jones said, "Coming around Dead Man's Curve, I see these headlights. Luckily, I had just gotten out of that lane and moved over. And here they come, hugging that retaining wall. Going the wrong way. Good 60 miles an hour right next to a semi-truck. They crossed paths."
So how did that driver end up going the wrong way? Not clear. Not even clear where the driver got on the highway. Based on a review of cameras along the highways, ODOT believes maybe it all began along the shoreway at the Eddy Road exit.
The State Department of Transportation has been aggressively looking into ways to prevent wrong-way drivers. ODOT studies each case that comes to light to investigate if there are changes that could be made to certain ramps, or changes with signs, or more.
Many people suggest adding spike strips to ramps similar to what drivers sometimes see in parking lots. Traffic engineers don’t believe that is a solution for many reasons. Among them, the cost and the reliability of the spikes under heavy use and varying weather conditions.
Most wrong-way drivers only seem to be on a highway for a short distance or a short time. Going the wrong way for nearly 20 miles without a crash or a run-in with police, simply mind-boggling and scary.
However, it’s happened before. ODOT says, incredibly, one wrong-way driver near Columbus also caused close calls for miles and miles.