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N.Y. State Announces Plan To Fight Wrong-Way Thruway Crashes

High-Tech Program Will Use Radar, Text Alerts, LED Signs
(Credit: CBS 2)

(Credit: CBS 2)

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The State of New York has announced a new, high-tech effort to combat wrong-way crashes, using radar, flashy LED signs, and text alerts to drivers’ cellphones and the resources of local police.

The system linked to Doppler radar and designed by state Thruway Authority workers is being installed upstate at the Buffalo exit at the Niagara Expressway, also known as Interstate 190. The second stage will be installed in Nyack, the site of several serious wrong-way crashes. More exits will soon get the systems along the 570-mile interstate Thruway system.

“New York is the first state in the nation to utilize this sophisticated technology to enhance traffic safety and save lives,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said the technology will save lives.

Doppler radar will be used to detect vehicles traveling the wrong way onto the Thruway. That will trigger a flashing LED sign to alert the driver and tell them to pull over and turn around when safe to do so. Other Thruway drivers will be alerted by other signs and the Thruway’s Statewide Operations Center will get an alert that can be shared with local police.

The system was developed by Thruway engineer Steve Velicky and made by Fiberdyne Labs in Frankfort and by Herkimer Industries in central New York. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the new alerts mesh with the existing texting alert system he said has been successful in alerting New Yorkers about traffic hazards. The new system doesn’t allow drivers to violate the no-texting laws pushed by Cuomo.

There were 17 fatalities in 15 accidents on the Thruway in 2012. Cuomo said last year was the safest year on the Thruway in its 59-year history.

Among the recent high-profile wrong-way accidents in the system was a crash on the Tappan Zee Bridge that killed one person and left four others injured in July.

Police said Michael Schechel, 69, was driving south in a white sport-utility vehicle in the northbound lanes of the bridge when his vehicle slammed head on into a Nissan that was being driven by Newman Ayeh-Brachie, 57. A passenger of Ayeh-Brachie’s car, 57-year-old Hannah Ayeh-Brachie, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

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