Newswatch 16 Investigates: Wrong-Way Drivers, One Year Later

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MOOSIC -- Since last May, there have not been any deadly wrong-way crashes in our area on the interstate and major highways.

Newswatch 16 first investigated the issue of wrong-way drivers one year ago. 

Since our initial report, PennDOT crews painted arrows on the ramps and posted new wrong way signs, bigger and brighter and lower to the ground than the ones before. It's all a part of an $800,000 contract that was in the works and is still going on.

George Roberts, who heads PennDOT's Northeast District, told Newswatch 16 that it appears more and more that a lack of signs isn't the primary cause of wrong-way drivers, but the drivers themselves.

"I worry that a lot of it is distracted driving," said Roberts. "Sometimes, I think people are looking at their phones or doing something else and they're just not paying attention to where they are getting on sometimes."

Not more than 20 minutes after Newswatch 16 interviewed Roberts last month, our crew ran into a driver, trying to go the wrong way on the northbound exit ramp on Interstate 81 at the Montage Mountain Road exit.

The driver spoke off camera to Newswatch 16; he and his wife, who are from Montreal and speak very little English, were traveling through the area for the first time when they made the mistake of almost getting on the interstate the wrong way.

Which brings us to PNC Field, where the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance listened to Andy Alden, the Executive Director of the I-81 Multistate Corridor Coalition, a six state safety coalition that stretches the length of the interstate from Tennessee to New York.

And Alden knows all about wrong way drivers.

"We see it everywhere," he explained.

That's why Alden showcased to area leaders a new proposal announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It's called "connected vehicles," where technology in one car can commute with other cars. The technology can automatically slow down if someone brakes ahead of you, it can alert you to avoid a potential crash and even alert you when other drivers ahead are sliding on a slippery road.

The potential technology doesn't stop there. Alden says it would also play a role in eliminating a lot of wrong-way crashes.

"If you know a position of a vehicle from a GPS on board and if it sees your vehicle moving the wrong direction on a highway, it can give you an in-vehicle warning to let you know you're going the wrong way," Alden added.

If the proposal is adopted, you could see this technology mandated in cars as early 2021.

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