The ICT/IDOT research project, “Investigation of Contributing Factors Regarding Wrong-Way Driving on Freeways,” has helped make Illinois highways safer and has had a national impact as well.
The first phase of the project resulted in a research report. A second phase of the project was completed at the end of September 2015, with a second report that summarizes the implementation and results of the first phase. That report also features preliminary findings of a before-and-after study showing that the number of WWD crashes declined after the countermeasures recommended in the guidelines were put into place at selected high-crash locations in Illinois.
Also as part of the second phase, a national summit was held, and its proceedings were published.
Priscilla Tobias, State Safety Engineer and Chief of IDOT’s Bureau of Safety Engineering, served as TRP co-chair for the research project. Richard Coakley, Principal Transportation Engineer with the consulting company CH2M, was the project co-chair.
Tobias says the research project was initiated in response to the growing trend of wrong-way driving crashes in Illinois. “The project helped IDOT better understand the contributing factors such as time of day, types of interchanges, roadway features, and behavior aspects that are over-represented in wrong-way driving crashes. The research results allowed IDOT to utilize limited safety funds and enhance the safety performance of over 300 interchanges across the state through improved pavement markings and signing. Preliminary results reflect a reduction in WWD crashes.”
She adds: “IDOT used the WWD summit as an avenue to share the results of our research [and to] learn from the successes and challenges of other states. IDOT recognizes the value of research, especially in the area of safety. Our goal is to leverage our state research, have national impact, and advance safety the science of safety.”
Jeffrey Shaw, Intersections Program Manager for the Federal Highway Administration Office of Safety, says the National Wrong-Way Driving Summit served to jump-start efforts across the United States, as well as help the agency better respond to recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board’s WWD special investigation.
He says that the WWD guidelines produced as part of the ICT/IDOT project, along with the American Traffic Safety Services Association’s Emerging Safety Countermeasures for Wrong-Way Driving, provided substantive materials to share with the broader highway design and safety communities.
“I … know of several cases in which the summit and the WWD documents inspired other states to embark on their own initiatives to address the safety challenge,” says Shaw. “While that is certainly a testament to the value of this project, it also wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement of IDOT folks at national levels. … This is exactly the kind of state-led, nationally coordinated effort that produces positive results across the country.”
Huaguo Zhou (Auburn University) and Ryan Fries and Brent Vaughn (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) were the primary and co-investigators on the projects.