Why spike strips aren't the answer to wrong-way incidents

Why spike strips aren't the answer to wrong-way incidents

March 22, 2017

"Wrong Way"

Earlier this year we discussed how ADOT has taken significant steps to reduce the risk of wrong-way drivers. We are currently developing a wrong-way detection pilot project for Interstate 17 in Phoenix to even more rapidly alert motorists, State Troopers and other emergency responders to a driver going the wrong way.

Let’s be clear, though … a state transportation department cannot design an engineering solution that prevents crashes, injuries and fatalities from every form of driver error. Keep in mind that most wrong-way drivers have made the worst possible choices. They are driving drunk, drugged or half asleep.

ADOT has received hundreds of questions and suggestions from concerned motorists about whether metal spike strips could be used to blow the tires of a wrong-way vehicle driving down a ramp toward oncoming traffic.

These are among the many reasons why ADOT isn't considering spike strips, determined after decades of testing and research across the national transportation industry:

  • No available system is designed for speeds faster than 5 mph.
  • Not for use in high-volume traffic.
  • Not guaranteed to blow the tires of vehicles traveling at high speeds.
  • Can break, leaving stubs that damage tires of vehicles traveling in the right direction.
  • Cause drivers going in the right direction to see the spikes as a road hazard, causing brake lights, slow traffic and backups.
  • Dangerous to motorcycles and small cars.
  • Prone to getting clogged with dirt and snow.
  • Slippery when wet.
  • Require excessive maintenance — must be visually monitored and maintained 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure to safe operation.
  • Failure of the system could result in damage to a vehicle traveling in the right direction and harm to that driver.
  • Not compliant with the nationally accepted traffic control device guidelines.

ADOT isn't alone in this assessment. We've found no place in the world where spikes are used on highway systems.

ADOT appreciates all the public engagement on the issue of wrong-way drivers. Help us spread the word: To truly address the danger, everyone must focus on making smart decisions before getting in the driver’s seat.

Don’t drive impaired, get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel, and pay attention to the road and other drivers in front of you.