Wrong way driving crashes continue to be a persistent highway safety problem for North Carolina. Although these crashes represent a small percentage of crashes occurring statewide, they are understandably serious when they occur. In 2006 and 2012, NCDOT developed reports on wrong way crashes. The later report recognized that the most highly urbanized counties, such as Mecklenburg, Forsyth, and Wake, continue to experience wrong way crashes on their freeways. The report concluded that a systematic approach to design and traffic control may be successful in reducing wrong way crashes.
Many other states have also undertaken efforts in recent years to reduce the problem of wrong way crashes. In the summer of 2013, Illinois DOT hosted a Wrong Way Driving Summit to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and practices to reduce wrong way driving. The proceedings of this summit were made available (Zhou, 2014) and included current practices in the areas of engineering, enforcement, and education to prevent wrong way driving and to mitigate the impact of wrong way crashes.
The objective of this project was to develop recommendations for geometric elements, traffic control devices, and other strategies to reduce wrong way driving at priority freeway ramp locations in North Carolina. The research team developed two main products in this research project. The first product was a 24-page toolbox of signs, markings, and geometric design strategies that can be implemented at any freeway ramp terminal to reduce the potential for wrong way driving. This compilation of strategies was based on a state-of-the-practice review from other states and recent research.
The second product was a set of site-specific recommendations for selected priority interchanges. The team reviewed 129 reports from wrong way crashes in Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, and Wake counties. The team identified 34 interchanges where wrong way driving had originated or likely had originated. Team members conducted a field review of each interchange to identify whether there were characteristics linked with increased risk of wrong way driving. The team produced recommendations for improvements to the signs, markings, and geometrics of the ramp intersections to reduce the potential for wrong way driving.