Iowa Department of Transportation project aims to prevent wrong-way drivers

The Iowa DOT is installing new signs and pavements markings to try and prevent wrong-way drivers, who may cause crashes that kill or seriously hurt people.
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 7:57 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Transportation is installing new signs and pavements markings across the state to try and prevent wrong-way drivers.

So far this year, there have been 53 documented wrong-way drivers in Linn County. One of those drivers caused a crash with minor injuries on September 30 on Interstate 380 in Cedar Rapids. Another killed a man in March of 2021, also on I-380 in Cedar Rapids. The DOT said new signs won’t prevent all crashes and fatalities, but data shows 90% of wrong-way drivers self-correct in the signage area.

On Tuesday, contractors for the DOT began installing new signage and pavement markings at 20 interchanges and intersections in the Cedar Rapids area. The enhanced signage is part of a $1 million project that includes 165 sites across Iowa. As of mid-October, the project is about one-third of the way complete.

The wrong way signs are larger than the previous signs. They’re also strategically placed to catch the attention of someone who might be heading down the wrong ramp. While the hope is that the new signage will be effective, Willy Sorenson, a DOT traffic and safety engineer, said that it may not help someone who’s under the influence.

“Most of those are drivers that are beyond the ability of the DOT to control. But it doesn’t mean we should stop; doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,” Sorenson said. “And that’s what this enhanced signing is really meant to do, is get these signs right out in front of people.”

Among the over four dozen wrong-way drivers in Linn County this year, newly installed tracking cameras caught more than half of them. 25 were reported to law enforcement. With two and a half months left in the year, that’s trending higher than previous years. There were 26 reports in 2020 and 25 reports in both 2019 and 2018.

Sorenson expects the project to be 50% complete by Thanksgiving. Crews will finish the work in the spring.

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