CLEVELAND – Ohio Department of Transportation cameras captured two more wrong way drivers within an hour of one another along the same interstates where two others have happened within the last week, one of those taking the lives of three people.
A camera at West 130th street and Interstate 71 captured the image of a car slowly driving north on the berm of the southbound lanes flashing its hazards about 2 a.m. on Thursday.
The car is seen making a U-turn then blending into the southbound traffic.
Another driver was seen at 3:18 a.m. entering the westbound lanes of Interstate 90 at Lakeside Boulevard through an off ramp and travelling the wrong direction at a slow rate of speed until it finally vanished after being seen again on a camera near Eddy Road.
“As far as we know neither one of these drivers were stopped. They weren’t involved in a crash so we will never know for sure what the situation was, why they decided to get on the highway going the wrong direction and drive,” said Matt Bruning of ODOT.
The images were captured one day after another driver was seen driving the wrong way on I-71 near West 65th street and four days after a wrong way driver slammed into a car on I-90 near West 85th Street, killing three people.
“It’s really important to us to know how these folks are getting on the highway going the wrong way so we can look at additional preventative measures,” said Bruning.
ODOT says there are at least seven signs on the Lakeside Boulevard ramp where the second wrong way driver entered the highway on Thursday morning.
That is in addition to multiple reflectors embedded in the pavement that would have shined red back at the wrong way driver “lighting up the ramp like a Christmas tree,” said Bruning.
ODOT installed a system at West 28th street in Cleveland last November that would trigger flashing lights around stop signs and take time stamped photos of any car entering the wrong way so that police could respond more quickly.
However, Bruning says the only real common denominator in most all of the wrong way incidents and crashes is that the driver was impaired.
“There are 5,209 ramps in Ohio. Very rarely do we see multiple wrong way drivers coming in off of one of those ramps so we know we have seen a lot, relatively speaking, on the I-71 and I-90 corridors. So, certainly those are where our attention is but we have seen them on 480, we have seen them on 77,” said Bruning.
ODOT says after these kind of incidents, many people suggest installing devices that would puncture the tires of cars going the wrong way. But Bruning says those kind of devices have been thoroughly studied since the 1960 and every state in the country has come to the conclusion that they will not work.
“No state in the nation actually uses them. Actually, we can’t find any example of them being used anywhere in the world just because they are not manufactured for the traffic volumes and the speeds,” said Bruning.
Bruning says there would be additional problems in heavy snowfalls and, for example, if emergency services need to use the off ramps to get to a crash.
Ultimately, ODOT says the responsibility for preventing such incidents lies with the drivers themselves.
“All the engineering solutions that ODOT can put out there at the end of the day mean nothing if the driver makes the decision to get behind the wheel while they are impaired, turn the key put their hands on the steering wheel and drive down the roadway. I mean ultimately the responsibility ends with the driver,” said Bruning.