Q&AZ: What should I do when I see a wrong-way driver sign on the freeway?

By Andrea Barrios
Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2023 - 7:05am
Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2023 - 12:27pm

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ADOT wrong way driver sign
Arizona Department of Transportation
A sign on an Arizona freeway alerts drivers.

You may have been driving on the freeway when you saw an Arizona Department of Transportation that sign read: WRONG-WAY DRIVER AHEAD.

Through KJZZ's Q&AZ reporting project, a listener asked: What should I do when I see a wrong-way driver sign? 

Between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. are the most common times for wrong-way drivers. They tend to drive in the HOV lane, as they believe they are driving in the slow lane.

However, there is no way to be sure what lane you will find the wrong way driver in. Officials say the the safest thing to do is slow down and exit the freeway if you can.

Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves says when exiting is not an option, the safest place to be is in the middle two lanes. 

“It’s best to make sure that you’re in one of the center two lanes of the freeway, which gives you room enough to maneuver out of the way of a wrong way vehicle, and as soon as its safe to do so, exit the freeway," he said. If you’re able, take service streets for the rest of your commute. Otherwise, be sure to wait about 20 minutes before reentering the freeway."

In 2018, ADOT approved the Wrong-Way Vehicle Detection and Alert System. The program uses nearly 100 thermal imaging cameras to monitor several highly trafficked freeway entrances in the Valley. When a driver enters a freeway and drives in the wrong direction, the cameras alert ADOT officials as well as the Department of Public Safety to the driver.

Freeway billboards will also flash to alert other drivers in the area, encouraging them to get off the road. ADOT said in November last year that it planned to add more cameras in 2023.

Pratham Dalal contributed to this report.

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