Reduce Wrong-Way Collisions with Thermal Imaging Technology

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Reducing wrong-way collisions – and saving lives – is more precise and accurate than ever with thermal imaging technology.

Considered among the most lethal types of traffic incidents because of their head-on nature, wrong-way driving collisions claim an average of 360 lives in the U.S. each year, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board. Fortunately, traffic safety professionals tasked with reducing these life-shattering collisions have a host of innovative tools at their disposal. One of the most effective is thermal imaging.

What Thermal Imaging Is

A wrong-way alert system may use a variety of technologies, such as Doppler radar, inductive loops or thermal imaging, to monitor roadways and identify wrong-way drivers. Are you leveraging thermal imaging to its fullest potential to reduce wrong-way collisions?

Because thermal imaging detects differences in heat energy, not light, anything that absorbs or transmits heat – motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and more – can be seen 24 hours a day, even in harsh weather conditions. As a result, thermal imaging is impervious to issues like low light conditions, excessive sun glare and shadows.

A wrong-way alert system leveraging thermal imaging technology can detect wrong-way vehicles across up to six lanes of traffic over a stretch of several hundred feet. On top of that, it can accomplish this with the accuracy and directional precision necessary to minimize false detections in all roadway configurations. This simplifies instantaneous detection and upstream accident prevention for areas prone to wrong-way drivers, such as side-by-side highway entrances and exit ramps, exit ramps near side streets and poorly lit entrance and exit ramps.

How Thermal Imaging Reduces Wrong-Way Driving

A wrong-way alert system like TAPCO’s with thermal imaging technology works like this:

Alert Activation Zone

A wrong-way driver enters the alert activation zone of the roadway and is immediately detected by a nearby thermal sensor. This immediately activates LED-enhanced warning alerts – such as RRFBs, BlinkerBeacons™ and BlinkerSigns® – on the sign pole that command the driver’s attention. Seventy-one percent of wrong-way crashes occur in dark conditions, and flashing LED enhancements are proven to reduce wrong-way events by 38%. Thus, it is paramount that warning alerts are activated promptly when a wrong-way event occurs.

Correction Zone

Now aware he or she is going the wrong way, the driver can self-correct by turning around in the correction zone. This theoretical zone is designed ahead of the second set of warning alerts to provide the driver the necessary time and distance to self-correct. A wrong-way collision is avoided, and possible lives are saved.

Confirmation Zone

If the driver continues going the wrong way, however, thermal sensors and a high-speed, high-definition camera monitor this activity in the final zone: the confirmation zone. This provides precise, reliable vehicle imagery in the configured detection area, allowing law enforcement to identify the perpetrator for a safe interception. Additionally, users can utilize BlinkLink® software to collect event-related data for further analysis and implement lessons learned with future developments. They can also transfer system data to their Central Traffic Management System (CTMS) through existing fiber networks. For additional monitoring, learn more about your options here.

Getting Started with Thermal Imaging

Widely recognized as best-in-class, FLIR is the largest commercial producer of thermal imaging cameras and sensors in the world. Their products are unmatched in accuracy, reliability and lifetime ROI, which is why TAPCO – the leader in traffic safety in North America – has partnered with them to provide the most reliable thermal technology for wrong-way applications across the continent. This partnership seamlessly pairs TAPCO’s Wrong-Way Alert Systems, among other solutions, with FLIR’s top-of-the-line thermal imaging cameras and sensors to provide the transformative solutions traffic safety professionals are looking for — a win for all road users.

Thermal imaging has valuable applications outside of wrong-way collisions as well, including increasing safety by thermally detecting pedestrians around the clock and alerting motorists. Learn more here.

With more than 700 wrong-way installs in the U.S. and Canada, TAPCO and FLIR innovations continue to deliver life-saving results. Don’t miss out on everything thermal imaging sensors have to offer.

Discover more about reducing wrong-way driving collisions with thermal imaging today.

Nick Schmidling

TAPCO | Senior Product Manager

With several years of product and project management experience, Nick is an expert on wrong-way solutions, dynamic curve warning systems, intersection conflict warning systems, overheight warning systems and LED-enhanced signs.

He manages product life cycles from inception to realization and compiles traffic safety market research to drive innovative ITS solutions.

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