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Why It Helps to Add More ‘Wrong Way’ Signs

May 29, 2020

Even though wrong way driving accidents are rare, they are among the most deadly. ‘Wrong way’ signs have proven to help reduce accidents, particularly electronic systems with LED lights. Here’s a look at why these warning signs are necessary and why they work.

Modern Flashers

In the 21st century, ‘wrong way’ signs with electronic flashers have played an enormous role in alerting drivers to avoid oncoming traffic. TraffiCalm is a manufacturer of such MUTCD compliant systems, which have been spreading across the nation the past few decades. The solar-powered version has additional sustainability value in reducing energy costs and greenhouse gases.

The flashers work around the clock and can be programmed remotely through a secure, proprietary private network. The brightness of the LEDs has been part of the reason these systems work so well at alerting drivers of potential dangers. Here are some of the various scenarios in which ‘wrong way’ signs are needed:

  • two-way roads without center lines or dividers
  • narrow lanes approaching bridges or tunnels
  • intersections without traffic lights
  • freeway exits
  • parking garages and other large parking lots

States Must Help Make Roads Safer

It’s up to each state government to take a more proactive role in traffic control measures to help reduce overall accidents, especially the most serious cases involving head-on collisions.

Florida is a state with high vehicle insurance rates due to a higher than average traffic accident rate. In 2014, Tampa Bay’s wrong-way crash statistics doubled the national average of 3 percent of accidents. It was still a rare occurance, but four deadly crashes, taking ten lives on Interstate 275, signaled a need for greater traffic control oversight. It turned out that each of these cases involved drivers using alcohol or drugs. The death toll of wrong way accidents also escalated throughout the state.

Motorcycle deaths in Florida are also higher than the national average, as the state ranked number 4 in that category in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A study by the National Transportation Safety Board in Illinois found that about 60 percent of wrong way accidents between 2004 and 2009 involved drunk driving. Other common causes of head-on collisons include driver fatigue, falling asleep at the wheel, driver distractions, medical emergencies and poor visibility. About a tenth of all traffic fatalities involve large trucks, many times on non-divided highways, narrow roads, around curves or on one-way streets.

Taking Action Gets Results

States with loose traffic laws are the ones that need electronic warning signs the most. The states that have adopted such measures have seen positive results in cutting down wrong way accidents, which mainly occur at night.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) found from a study that adding extra Wrong Way signs at freeway exits helps reduce fatal accidents at these sites. Other measures include adding directional arrows at off-ramps and cable barriers at medians. States and local governments can only do so much with stricter laws and investment in traffic control devices, but it’s worth the effort since these actions do make streets safer.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) took action in 2019, announcing the completion of installing hundreds of new ‘wrong way’ signs on freeways in the Phoenix area. Part of the strategy is the use of more white pavement arrows and lower enlarged signs that are more visible to drivers.


One way to help reduce head on collisions is to implement a series of ‘wrong way’ signs in areas where they reoccur. Contact Zumar for a free quote and to learn more about various solutions for signage and other traffic control devices.

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