HOUSTON – Houston highways will soon get a little bit safer. KPRC 2 traffic expert Anavid Reyes got a first look at the new wrong-way driver detection system that will be going in at 16 new locations by the end of 2021.
There were almost 250 wrong-way driver crashes in Houston between 2015 and 2019, and according to The Texas Department of Transportation, the Lonestar state leads the nation in wrong-way driver crashes. The Texas Department of Transportation and Houston Transtar have been studying wrong-way crashes for years and have determined the locations that see the highest amount of these types of crashes:
- Exit Ramp onto Pierce
- Exit Ramp onto Bagby
- Exit Ramp onto Jefferson
- Exit Ramp to Dallas/Heiner
- Exit Ramp to McKinney
- Exit Ramp to Quitman/White Oak
- Elgin/Tuam Exit Ramp
- Chenevert Exit Ramp
- Exit Ramp to Louisiana
- Exit Ramp to Travis
- Exit Ramp to Richmond
- Exit Ramp to Main Street
- Exit Ramp to Greenbriar/Shepherd
- Exit Ramp to Kirby
- Exit Ramp to Edloe/Buffalo Speedway
- Exit Ramp to Weslayan
Research shows 2 to 3 a.m. is the worst hour for these crashes, which is just around the time the Ziarra family learned their younger brother was hit by a wrong-way driver more than 10 years ago.
“Your brother survived, but his friends died. I remember stumbling, I missed a step, my dad caught me with his arm,” Claudia Ziara, sister of David Porras, a wrong-way crash victim, remembers the moment she learned her brother David was hit by a wrong-way driver.
Nicole Baukus’ truck slammed into the car, killing 18-year-old Travis Saunders and 19-year-old Nicole Adams, and critically injuring 22-year-old David Porras on I-45 near the Woodlands in June of 2012.
“Thank goodness he was wearing his seat belt, and the airbag saved his life, but he bit into it and when the airbag deflated, it actually ripped out his teeth,” recalls Ziarra.
These crashes are devastating, not only for the victims involved but for the family members of the victims as well. According to AAA, fatal wrong-way driving crashes on our nation’s highways are a persistent and devastating threat that is only getting worse. According to the latest data analysis from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there were 2,008 deaths from wrong-way driving crashes on divided highways between 2015 and 2018, an average of approximately 500 deaths a year.
Danny Perez with TXDOT says the wrong-way drivers crash detection technology will alert authorities and Houston Transtar if a vehicle “crosses one point and it goes in the reverse/opposite direction and crosses another point.”
These moments happen so fast, in a matter of seconds to be exact, and usually when both cars are driving freeway speeds. By the time you realize you’ve got a wrong-way driver coming your way, it may be too late.
According to DPS, if a wrong-way driver approaches or you see an alert on Houston Transtar message signs, slow down and immediately move as far to the right as possible. Even if there is no shoulder, research shows most highway accidents happen on the left lanes at night, so by driving in the right lane, you’re buying yourself reaction time.
“In the event that you see someone coming your way, it’s going to be up to you to get out of the way,” according to Sergeant Woodard with DPS.
AAA says to pull over as soon as possible if you see a wrong-way driver and call 911. Be prepared to give the dispatcher a description of the vehicle, the license plate number if you have it, and the location and direction of travel.