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Car Wrecks & Negligence on the Tollway - But Not by Drivers

Submitted by Anonymous on Jun 22nd, 2009

It's happened again.

And we're sick of it.

Early Sunday morning, a 27 year old male by the name of Matthew drove more than ten miles (ten miles!) in the wrong direction down the North Dallas Tollway.

But he didn't just drive the wrong direction - oh no. What stopped him from driving in the wrong direction wasn't a police car, wasn't a warning system, wasn't spikes in the road. It was another car. Two innocent women who swerved in an attempt to miss Matthew driving the wrong direction didn't quite make it far enough. One of the women is in the intensive care unit at Parkland. The other woman is recovering at home. And dear Matthew, also at Parkland, is listed in fair condition.

This is the fifth incident in the past three months of wrong-way driving up and down the Tollway. The only link between these incidents: darkness. These accidents are occurring at night all along the Tollway. Five people have been killed, several others seriously injured. Another ten reported incidents have occurred in the past two years.

Fifteen reported incidents in the past two years. How many others have been unnoticed or unreported?

And a better question: why is this happening and why hasn't anyone done anything about it?

This is well beyond intoxication or substance interactions. Drivers, no matter their condition, shouldn't be able to enter the Tollway in the wrong direction - and certainly not drive through 10 miles (how many toll booths is that!) before causing serious injury to others.

So what have transportation officials at the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) done about it?

The Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Institute have recommended several tactics:

- A warning system for drivers in the path of a vehicle heading in the wrong direction, relying on cameras and electronic boards already implemented
(NTTA's response: automated signs take too long to transmit alerts to be effective)

- Wrong-way spikes in the road to stop drivers driving in the wrong direction - these are often used in police chases
(NTTA's response: spikes aren't feasible because they're built for low-speed situations)

- Better lighting, signage and blockades at Tollway entrances
(NTTA's response: silence - and no change)

- Better monitoring by Tollway authorities, including toll booth personnel, and better use of existing technologies, including cameras to spot headlights coming from the incorrect direction
(NTTA's response: we're looking into it, but going to a fully automated, person-less system)

We also find it disturbing that none of this news, none of these recommendations, and none of these responses are available on the NTTA website.

So what's the one recommendation NTTA has for drivers?

"Stay in the right lane - most of these accidents are occurring in the fast lane at night."

Do these people drive in Texas? Have they ever driven in Dallas? Driving in the right lane, especially at highway speeds, is dangerous in itself as people enter and exit the highway at dramatically different speed and acceleration.

Further, they're going to pass responsibility for basic safety onto innocent drivers - with a ludicrous suggestion to stay in the right hand lane?

We can't imagine more negligent behavior on the part of a transportation organization. What will it take for the NTTA to finally implement a safety system to keep these accidents from the regular occurrence they're quickly becoming?

Let's find out. Send an email, give a phone call, and don't give up. For your driving safety and ours.