Could there be a solution to stop wrong way drivers? Jill Goldberg, spokeswoman for The Georgia Department of Transportation, tells WSB they're looking very closely at a model being used in Houston, Texas.
The Harris County Toll Road Authority came up with a system after a wrong way crash killed three people on New Year's Eve in 2008.
They are repurposing speed radars to detect cars traveling the wrong way on exit ramps.
A warning sounds in the toll authority's transportation command center when the system is triggered. The cameras will focus on the location where a dispatcher can verify the alarm. Once confirmed, an officer is sent to respond.
As that is happening, there are message boards in the area warning drivers nearby of the wrong-way driver and to move over and stop.
"We want to keep up with it, we want to know how it works, we want to know what they're doing. But it's way too early to say whether it would be effective here in our area with our driving conditions, the way that our roads are with many lanes, entrances, and exits," said Goldberg.
She does admit that so far, the system has already had some early success. In four years, the 17 mile stretch has had 100 wrong way drivers but not a single car crash.
"I definitely want to caution people, it is on a very small amount of road. Only a few miles of like one or two exits and one or two lanes, so it's quite a different situation than what we have here," said Goldberg.
Another big factor is the cost. The system in Houston cost $335,000 to install in 19 locations and there have been a few hiccups. Because the radars are prone to false alarms, the toll authority is spending more than $500,000 to install sensors in the pavement instead.
To install something similar to Houston's system around I-285 in Atlanta, the cost would be about $3 million.
"How much equipment you need, how quickly can 911 get out there, so there are a lot of factors involved," said Goldberg.
She says even if a wrong way driver is spotted, stopping them takes longer than you might think.
"Not that long ago, we did have a wrong way driver in the H-O-T lane on I-85 and even though it was seen immediately and reported immediately, it still took nearly 16 miles before the police were able to reach that driver. Fortunately, there was no incident and everything was resolved safely," said Goldberg.
In August, five people died on metro Atlanta freeways in wrong way crashes, but Goldberg says that is highly unusual.
"It did seem like there for a few weeks that we were getting one or two a week and it did come in sort of a rush. So it was fresh on people's minds and certainly it always is a reminder to everyone to be extra cautious out there and be very careful," said Goldberg.
She admits that posting signs and improved road markings will only go so far.
"Study after study has shown that more than 90 percent of drivers doing the wrong way driving are impaired in some way, so that's a very difficult situation to control. Unfortunately, it's really out of our hands from that aspect," said Goldberg.