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On Anniversary of Fatal Crash, USF Researchers Try to Deter Wrong-Way Drivers

Feb 9, 2015

An example of RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons) installed on a wrong way sign.
Credit USF Center for Urban Transportation Research

It was a year ago today that four University of South Florida students were killed in a fiery collision with a drunk driver going the wrong way on I-275. 

Since then, a spate of similar incidents -- and near-misses -- have occurred in the Tampa Bay area. Now, USF researchers are studying ways to cut down on such behavior.

Dr. Pei-Sung Lin is program director of ITS, Traffic Operations and Safety at USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research, or CUTR.

His research aims to decrease wrong-way driving, especially on freeways, by finding the best way to warn motorists when they're about to enter onto exit ramps. To begin with, they'll ask a study group of more than 200 drivers what pattern and layout of flashing lights -- or Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) -- on wrong-way signs gets their attention the best.

"And once we determine that, we will implement it on the six off-ramps near USF," Lin said. "Then, we're going to determine what's the effectiveness of these devices to warn drivers."

That includes determining how quick drivers react to the warning lights and turn around.

However, he admitted that flashing lights will not deter drivers so impaired that they're unsure of their surroundings, so CUTR is working with law enforcement, as well as state and local groups and businesses to decrease the number of drunk drivers on the road.