How Can We Help Prevent Wrong-Way Wrecks?

The driver who caused this week's gruesome wrong-way crash on I-95 has been identified as 23-year-old Alexandra Lefler, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Lefler was killed in the crash, along with four family members in the car she struck head-on. It's still unclear how her pickup truck ended up driving south in the northbound express lanes. But it appears she drove onto an exit ramp as if it were an entrance ramp.

Some NBC 6 viewers have suggested: Could she have been stopped by spike strips?

But can they be placed on exit ramps, targeting wrong-way drivers? We asked Florida DOT Engineer Mark Plass.

"The biggest issue with those is we frequently have a need for emergency vehicles to travel the wrong way up an off ramp based on a crash they're trying to respond to," Plass explained. "The higher speed could be a factor. I'm not aware of spike strips or any similar technology being applied at a high speed environment like an off ramp."

Sometimes what looks like a simple solution, like a wrong-way sign, is not so simple. Some are solar-powered and have two radars to detect which way cars are coming and a camera to take pictures of the driver.

There are LED lights that go off when a car is going the wrong way, and commutations software that relays all this information to a state command center.

It's a test program that has already turned around more than a dozen would-be wrong-way drivers, and could be expanded beyond just the Turnpike extension and some Sawgrass exit ramps.

But changes in traffic operations take time and study.

"They need to be extremely well understood by the driver, they have to be maintainable, they have to be predictable, and so the field of traffic control changes slowly and very systematically," Plass said.

The Texas DOT studied putting spike strips at exit ramps, but found so many problems they determined it would actually make roads less safe than they are now.

Better signage, interchange layout and warning lights appear to help, but of course, an impaired driver may not respond to any of those.

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