MDOT Aims to Make Northern Michigan Roads Safer with “Active Warning Systems”

When driving on the highway, traffic signs can sometimes go unnoticed and that means drivers may not always be paying attention to potential dangerous road conditions.

We’ve all seen signs like those that read “Bridge ices before road,” but the Department of Transportation says most drivers don’t take those warnings seriously.

With new technology they are hoping drivers take notice of dangerous condition, particularly when the weather calls for it.

“A system like this we are hoping will improve safety through improving driver behavior,” MDOT North Region Operations Engineer Garrett Dawe, said.

“They tend to be disregarded by drivers, which is problematic when those conditions actually exist,” Dawe, added.

MDOT wants these signs to get the attention they deserve, by adding these lights that go off when road conditions call for it.

“The idea behind this system is to actively warn a driver when those conditions actually exist so they heed the warning of that sign,” Dawe, explained.

The way it works?

Infrared beams from a tower are bouncing off the roadway and with that, MDOT can get road condition readings within five to ten seconds of something hitting the ground.

“As soon as there is ice or snow on the pavement those signs are going to start flashing,” Dawe, said.

From 2010-2014, there were 24 crashes on I-75 over Charles Brink Road in Gaylord.

MDOT placed the first road warning sensor there and since then, the number of crashes there have been almost cut in half.

“We’ve seen a 38% reduction in crashes, zero injuries, zero fatalities and we are seeing very positive driver behavior, folks are slowing down when they see those warnings,” Dawe, explained.

Drivers say they support anything that could make their commute safer.

“That’s what we are after, keep everybody safe. Its been helpful, I came across a few of them in southern Michigan and it’s nice to know what you are coming into,” Edward Herig, said.

Each system costs about $150,000, but if the crash data continues to come back positive you could see more of these on roads around Northern Michigan.