The North Texas Tollway Authority believes curbing drunk driving is the solution to keeping drivers from going the wrong way on the Dallas North Tollway.
“It’s not an issue of signage, it’s not an issue of all-electronic toll collection, it’s not an issue of configuration. The factors is the majority of these cases are alcohol and drugs and that’s where we’re aiming to change behavior,” said NTTA spokesperson Sherita Coffelt. “If it were an issue of configuration or signage, these issues would occur all day long, all night long, not just predominately Friday and Saturday from the hours of midnight to 3 a.m.”
For the third time in three months, a driver going the wrong way on the Tollway caused a fatal accident. Late Monday night, 28-year-old Jenny Hall drove her gray Jeep Cherokee north in the southbound lanes of the Tollway, hitting 25-year-old Carl Lotspeich’s black Mercury Milan near Walnut Hill Lane. Both were killed in the accident.
Coffelt said the NTTA is doing everything in its power to prevent such incidents. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the Texas Department of Public Safety stepped up its patrols of the Tollway and made 19 DWI arrests. There are 1,000 cameras along the Tollway that are monitored from a DPS dispatch center, and new signs were installed on the south end of the Tollway that exceed the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices standards.
But it was a 911 call from a motorist that alerted authorities Hall was driving the wrong way last night, not the cameras. Coffelt said the cameras are constantly monitored, but not all at once.
“We have over 1,000 cameras on our system, so we can’t monitor them all at the same time,” she said. “So we go through the cameras…in many of these cases, we’ve picked up on the incident on the camera, but the time we got out there, it was too late.”
Coffelt also pointed out the growth of uptown and downtown Dallas and Addison have contributed to the number of drunk drivers on the Tollway.
“Those are all areas of great economic development, but those are areas with bars and drinking locations,” she said. “By no means do we feel that the Dallas North Tollway is a bad location, but whenever you couple the location with bad decisions made by these drunk drivers, it becomes something we all have to work together to address.”
One option that drivers won’t likely see on the Tollway is the installation of spike strips that immobilize vehicles that drove over them the wrong way. Coffelt said the NTTA investigated whether the strips, which are commonly used in parking lots, would be effective in an application on the Tollway. It determined the spikes would cause damage to cars exiting the Tollway and driving the correct direction because of their speed, and that immobilizing vehicles at the exit ramps could still cause accidents.
“Who’s to say even once the drunk driver has gotten a flat tire, that they wouldn’t keep driving,” Coffelt added.
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