HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — Greater Cincinnati just became the testing ground for a new technology the state hopes will stop wrong-way drivers on the interstate, averting deadly crashes in the process.
Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks during a Tuesday news conference that the agency will test new cameras and lights along the Interstate 71 corridor between Cincinnati and the border between Hamilton and Warren counties, as part of an effort to "combat the problem in a very targeted way."
ODOT will install the new tech at exit ramps along I-71 in an effort to alert drivers — and authorities — that they are driving the wrong way onto the interstate.
The wrong-way alerts will have two phases: First, upon initial detection of a wrong-way driver, LED lights will begin blinking alongside the "WRONG WAY" signs already installed along the exit ramps. If that's not enough to divert the wayward driver, cameras will begin recording and ODOT will receive a message that a wrong-way driver is entering the interstate.
"If the driver reaches the second set of signs, an alert is sent to our transportation center in Columbus so help can be dispatched," Marchbanks said.
ODOT data show that wrong-way crashes are generally rare but exceedingly deadly when they do happen: In 2018, at least 15 people died as a result of 27 wrong-way crashes statewide.
Marchbanks' announcement came on the same morning that Montgomery County court arraigned 21-year-old Abby Marie Michaels in the deaths of a family of three, after police say Michaels drove her vehicle the wrong way into traffic on Interstate 75 and struck another vehicle on St. Patrick's Day.
Michaels' bond was set at $3 million.
The 18-mile stretch between Lytle Tunnel in Cincinnati and I-71's Mason-Montgomery exit includes 23 exit ramps, all of which will see the installation of new lights and cameras.