Caltrans expands program aimed at preventing wrong-way crashes

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SAN DIEGO — Caltrans is expanding a pilot program aimed at preventing drivers from making the often fatal mistake of driving the wrong way.

In the last week in San Diego County, there have been four wrong-way crashes, three of which have involved fatalities. Local officials say wrong-way crashes are up 34 percent from just four years ago in California.

“By far, the majority of them happen because of impaired drivers — either alcohol or drugged driving — which cause people to be disoriented, be confused and make that deadly mistake of entering a freeway in a wrong direction,” said Doug Shupe, a AAA spokesman.

The use of flashing red lights in combination with signs that read “wrong way” has already started to make a difference.

“Just on the red reflective pavement markers that are visible going the wrong way, it was a 44% reduction,” said Erwin Gojuangco, a division chief for Caltrans.

Flashing lights over the wrong-way signs are being erected. Officials say there are 750 offramps that are slated to be revamped by 2023.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit, whose department is mourning two detectives who were killed Friday in a wrong-way crash, says anything to get the attention of drivers is an important step in stopping the next fatal wrong-way collision.

“I was talking to a CHP officer at the scene and they definitely said they have seen an increase,” Nisleit said. “We just need people to pay attention.”

Nisleit said his message is simple: put the phone down and focus on the road ahead.

“It could mean a life,” Nisleit said.

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