Wrong-way crashes account for about 1 percent of all traffic fatalities but are about 100 times more deadly than other collisions, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates 300-400 people are killed on average each year by drivers in the wrong lanes, usually at night with many impaired by alcohol and drugs.
Southwest Ohio has seen several wrong-way crashes in recent years.
Workers in Arizona will begin building in August the nation’s first-of-its-kind system to detect wrong-way vehicles.
The $3.7 million pilot project along 15 miles of Interstate 17 will employ thermal cameras to detect wrong-way drivers on an off-ramp, which will trigger an illuminated wrong-way sign for the driver as well as alert authorities. The signal will also prompt a message on overhead signs to alert area motorists. Additional cameras will be placed at mile intervals to help troopers plan a response, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Ohio had planned to pilot a program within recent years with a company called SpeedInfo to test whether highway sensors along I-70 could detect wrong-way drivers and alert law enforcement. But the test was delayed as the technology at the time needed improvement.
Four recent collisions in the Miami Valley demonstrate the lethality of wrong-way crashes:
Fiery downtown Dayton crash: The wrong-way driver in an April 30 fiery crash in Dayton, Andrew T. Brunsman, had alcohol and marijuana in his system at the time, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. Brunsman, 30, of Beavercreek, plowed head-on into a semi hauling a tanker of gasoline. The collision and following explosions sent fireballs skyward and plumes of black smoke pouring over Dayton neighborhoods north of downtown. The tanker and its contents burned for more than an hour. Authorities shut down the entire highway. Pavement was damaged by the inferno at the accident site, causing delay to reopening some southbound lanes.
Band members killed: In February of 2016, five people, including several local musicians, were killed in a wrong-way crash blamed on alcohol on Interstate 75. The dead included three members of a Dayton rock band CounterFlux and a 61-year-old man who had been arrested for OVI just 48 hours before the crash. The young victims included four friends: Kyle Canter, 23, of New Carlisle; Earl Miller II, 27, of New Carlisle; Vashti Nicole Brown, 29, of Dayton; and Devin Bachmann, 26, of Huber Heights. James Pohlabeln, a 61-year-old retiree from Dayton, was the driver of the other car. He had been released from jail just 33 hours earlier in connection with a separate suspected drunken driving crash.
Parents of four die: A Fairfield couple died April 8, 2016, when a wrong-way driver, who also died, struck their car on Interstate 75 in Evandale. Nazif Shteiwi, 61, and his wife, Halla Odeh Shteiwi, 55, were returning from a family function in Kentucky when hit by Kory Wilson, 30, of Springfield Twp. Wilson had a blood alcohol level 2.5 times the legal limit in Ohio, said Hamilton County Coroner’s Office. Witnesses said Wilson was driving the correct way on I-75 seconds before the crash, then abruptly turned around. The Shteiwis, who immigrated from Jordan 40 years ago, had four children in college, the family said.
Freeway suicide: On April 14, 2015, Chris Coleman passed through an emergency U-turn drive to the oncoming lanes of I-70 near the 48 mile marker in Clark County. He drove the wrong way on the shoulder before veering into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer, according to witnesses. Coleman’s Mazda exploded on impact and he died at the scene. The semi driver escaped without injury. After an investigation, the coroner ruled that Coleman committed suicide.