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Making Right on Wrong Way Driver Issues


In this Case Study You will Learn

  1. Michigan’s strategy to address wrong way driving stems from a series of field reviews and event data.
  2. MDOT partnered with Michigan State Polic to create a public information video on wrong way drivers.
  3. Active warning systems were installed at areas determined to be at high-risk for incidents.


The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) implemented a TSMO strategy to address the wrong way driver issue.  The strategy involves multiple offices, including the Southeast Michigan Transportation Operations Center (SEMTOC) and traffic safety staff, to implement actions to reduce the frequency and risk of wrong way driver events.  The TSMO strategy includes SEMTOC procedures, traffic safety reviews and projects, technology deployment, and public communications.

TSMO Strategy to Address Wrong Way Drivers

SEMTOC is co-located with Michigan State Police (MSP) Dispatch, and gets real time notification of 911 calls, including reports of wrong way drivers, in Southeast Michigan. In the fall of 2015, SEMTOC established a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that provides for immediate SEMTOC operator actions to alert motorists in the area with Dynamic Message Signs, as well as notification via radio to service patrol operators. SEMTOC operators deploy warnings broadly at the first call, covering both directions of the freeway and multiple signs, due to general unreliability of 911 caller information.  SEMTOC operators also search cameras in the vicinity to locate the wrong way driver, which can expedite arrival of MSP troopers to safely stop the wrong way driver. Operators also provide email notification to stakeholders, and log the event for future analysis. 

Another element of the TSMO strategy to address wrong way drivers is a series of field reviews performed by traffic safety staff from throughout the Metro Region.  The wrong way driver event data logged by SEMTOC were reviewed monthly, and field reviews were performed of the potential freeway entry points for confirmed wrong way driver events.  Field reviews identified both short term and long term improvements to help deter wrong way entry.  An example of a potential entry point identified during one of these field reviews, was a one-way side street intersecting a one-way service drive which comes from an off ramp; a vehicle driving the wrong way on the side street would inadvertently enter the freeway via the off-ramp if it turns left.


In 2017, MDOT partnered with MSP to create a public information video on wrong way drivers.  This video is posted on YouTube and was accompanied by a press release.  The media attention helps to raise awareness of the issue, provide context for the wrong way driver messaging on Dynamic Message Signs, and notes that wrong way drivers tend to be in the left travel lane of approaching traffic.  The public communication was planned and executed with leadership from communications representatives.


An example of a long-term improvement is the design and installation of active warning systems at areas with higher risk for wrong way entry.  Areas of higher risk were identified from the monthly field reviews.  A pilot system was deployed to demonstrate effectiveness of this type of system, and permanent installation is planned for selected high-risk locations. 

A systemic safety project installing signs and pavement markings at all partial cloverleaf (parclo) interchanges was implemented.   Parclo interchanges have more likelihood of wrong way entry due to the configuration of the on ramp and off ramps. 

Additional improvements are being implemented at a location with a high frequency of wrong way driving, which combines static signs, detection, automated electronic signs, and notification to SEMTOC operators.  Wrong way detection information will be available for use by Connected and Automated Vehicle applications.

Existing camera infrastructure was upgraded to enable video analytics for real time detection and notification to operators, which allows for immediate notification without requiring 911 to receive the information.


Combined, these initiatives comprise a TSMO strategy that help reduce the occurrence of wrong way driving, and help reduce the risk through public information of wrong way driver crashes.  Wrong way driver crashes frequently result in serious injury, making this a top safety priority for crash reduction.  Any crash that can be avoided provides the safety benefit as well as improving travel time reliability through incident reduction.

Operations Area of Practice

    Detection Systems
    Hazard Identification

Content Type

Case Studies & Lessons Learned

Publishing Organization

Issue Date