SUNRISE, Fla. – A pilot program to prevent motorist from traveling in the wrong direction on the highway appears to be working.
The Florida Department of Transportation has installed "Wrong Way" signs at 15 off ramps along the Homestead Extension of the Turnpike and the Sawgrass Expressway. Most motorists will never even recognize them because they face opposite the direction of traffic. The signs have LED lights and cameras attached to them and activate when a vehicle is detected traveling in the wrong direction.
"The camera comes on at the moment the sign activates," said FDOT spokesman Chad Huff.
He explained that the pilot program is designed to prevent accidents like the one that killed two young women on the Sawgrass Expressway in November 2013. The driver who was going the wrong way, Kayla Mendoza, was drunk at the time. She was in court Wednesday, has pleaded guilty and will be sentence on April 24.
Huff said the signs blink bright red when a vehicle is detected and the cameras send pictures of the wrong-way driver to the Florida Highway Patrol, so troopers can keep an eye out for the car, and to traffic managers, who can alert drivers using overhead message boards.
"Well, it's important, because if you're minding your own business and traveling the right way at 1 a.m., it gives you some sort of heads up that you might be meeting somebody going the opposite direction," Huff said.
The state has spent $400,000 on the program. It's also being implemented in Tampa and Tallahassee. Huff said so far in South Florida, the new signs have detected and prevented 10 motorists from traveling in the wrong direction.
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