MDOT, police testing new wrong-way alert system on I-94 ramp in Jackson County

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JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) -- The Michigan Department of Transportation has finished installing new safety cameras targeting wrong-way drivers on the eastbound Interstate 94 exit ramp to Sargent Road in Jackson County.

Wrong-way accident graphic by MGN.

The Wrong Way Alert System is designed to help prevent motorists from driving the wrong way on freeways. Cameras in the system detect when a car is driving toward it; when that happens, high-intensity red LED flasher lights mounted on each of the wrong way signs are activated, warning drivers that they are going the wrong way.

"Wrong-way crashes are considered the most serious type of traffic collisions," said Jackson Transportation Service Center manager Kelby Wallace. "This alert system is the first of its kind in our region and is part of our mission to increase safety and prevent crashes. Safety is paramount to MDOT."

Fifteen people died in wrong-way crashes in Michigan last year, three of them in Jackson County and two of them at I-94 and Sargent Road.

"If we can have devices that can warn people not to make these wrong-way decisions, perhaps we can prevent these fatalities in the future," said Kendall Wingrove, from the Office of Highway Safety Planning.

MDOT says the Sargent Road interchange is the right place to test its new wrong way alert system.

"Because of that unique layout, we thought it would be a great place to insert the system. It will be the first in Michigan," said MDOT communications representative Aaron Jenkins.

A combination of lights and cameras will be able to warn drivers who make a wrong turn, day or night.

"This system will alert a driver that may not be aware of the area, and when they see those flashing lights, they'll understand that they're going the wrong way," Jenkins said.

The system is part of the state's efforts toward zero deaths campaign. It's an effort between MDOT and state police to reduce the number of traffic deaths.

"They key is to help drivers make proper decisions and prevent them from making wrong ones. The vast majority of deaths are based on decisions, good or bad, made by drivers," Jenkins said.

They want to start by keeping 2018's number of deaths to less than last year's 967. The ultimate goal, though, is to make sure no one dies on the road.

"That's what we want. We want to have zero traffic fatalities, and we're doing everything we can, and this is a great step forward to make that happen," Jenkins said.

Wallace says the new cameras are expected to be operational by early December.