Safety

ADOT recognized by National Weather Service for driver safety efforts

ADOT recognized by National Weather Service for driver safety efforts

I-17 101 traffic interchange

ADOT recognized by National Weather Service for driver safety efforts

ADOT recognized by National Weather Service for driver safety efforts

September 21, 2020

PHOENIX -  Arizona Department of Transportation innovations designed to improve driver safety and awareness during bad weather conditions have earned recognition from the National Weather Service, which has cited ADOT as a “Weather Ready Nation Ambassador of Excellence.”

Because Arizona’s climate ranges from low desert to Alpine extremes, ADOT works with National Weather Service offices in Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and Las Vegas to constantly monitor a remarkable range of weather activity. This includes heat events, major winter storms, monsoon storms that can produce deadly lightning and flash flooding, the effects of wildfires, high winds and other occurrences throughout Arizona. 

With central Arizona being a prime location for dust storms, in 2019 ADOT installed a state-of-the-art X-band radar dust detection system on portions of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson, as well as variable speed limit signs that adjust in response to poor weather such as dust storms or heavy rainfall. 

DOT also coordinates with the National Weather Service on an emergency action plan to respond quickly to flooding emergencies, especially in areas burned out by wildfires where flooding can be more severe. Streamlined communication and preventative measures as part of the federal Pathfinder Program allow maintenance crews to take quick action to close highways and keep drivers safe in the event of flooding.

Among the weather-related safety initiatives promoted by ADOT are the “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” dust storm awareness effort and the “Know Snow” campaign for winter driving safety.

“The National Weather Service and ADOT work closely to promote safety for all Arizona drivers. Weather conditions in Arizona can bring extreme heat, blinding dust storms, flash flooding, thunderstorms, snow, ice and many other conditions that challenge drivers”, said Acting Warning Coordination Meteorologist Jaret Rogers. “Our partnership is vital for making roadways as safe as possible during adverse weather conditions and ADOT has promoted innovative safety measures and awareness campaigns. This has earned ADOT the distinction of being known as a National Weather Service Weather Ready Nation Ambassador of Excellence.”

“Safety is the number one priority for the Arizona Department of Transportation and we rely very heavily on great partners like the National Weather Service,” said ADOT Transportation Systems and Management Operations Director Brent Cain. “Arizona weather can range from temperatures in the 80s in one part of the state to snow in another, sometimes on the same day. Without our relationship with the National Weather Service, it would be difficult to effectively meet the safety needs of the public. We’re grateful for this recognition.”

For more information: 

https://www.weather.gov/wrn/ambassador_recognition

Know Snow, Dust Detection: /about/transportation-safety/severe-weather

Labor Day travelers: Northbound SR 87 restricted as crews continue to repair guardrail from Bush Fire

Labor Day travelers: Northbound SR 87 restricted as crews continue to repair guardrail from Bush Fire

I-17 101 traffic interchange

Labor Day travelers: Northbound SR 87 restricted as crews continue to repair guardrail from Bush Fire

Labor Day travelers: Northbound SR 87 restricted as crews continue to repair guardrail from Bush Fire

September 1, 2020

PHOENIX – Drivers heading north to Payson, the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains for the Labor Day holiday weekend should budget extra time and consider alternate routes with 7 miles of State Route 87 still limited to one lane while crews repair guardrail and fencing damaged by the Bush Fire. 

Work to replace more than 11 miles of guardrail damage has been underway since late July. As of Friday, Aug. 28, crews have repaired 44 percent of the damaged guardrail on SR 87, reducing the northbound lane restriction by about 5 miles. The right lane closure is between mileposts 223 and 230.

Drivers planning on heading to Payson and mountain areas to the east should plan extra travel time and consider Interstate 17 to State Route 260 as an alternate route to Payson and US 60 as an alternate route to the White Mountains.

Also, the shoulder of southbound SR 188 near SR 87 is blocked off until guardrail can be replaced along the two-lane highway. Crews have replaced nearly one-quarter of the damaged guardrail along SR 188. Please drive with care in that area. 

ADOT has secured federal emergency relief funds to cover the $2 million cost of repaired guardrail and the right-of-way fence.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT. When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, our free app available at ADOTAlerts.com will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas – where possible, in advance of alternate routes.

ADOT installs signs for daytime headlight use along SR 169 to increase safety

ADOT installs signs for daytime headlight use along SR 169 to increase safety

I-17 101 traffic interchange

ADOT installs signs for daytime headlight use along SR 169 to increase safety

ADOT installs signs for daytime headlight use along SR 169 to increase safety

August 31, 2020

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation has installed six signs telling drivers to use their headlights during the daytime on State Route 169 to increase visibility and safety along the highway.

The signs were placed along the entire highway corridor between the junction with SR 69 in Dewey-Humboldt and the junction with Interstate 17 north of Cordes Junction. Drivers on SR 169 are required to turn their headlights on during daylight hours.

“Having headlights on really increases visibility, even during the daytime,” said Bob LaJeunesse, regional traffic engineer for ADOT’s Northwest District. “We want to reduce the number of head-on collisions along this two-lane highway. Increasing visibility through headlight usage can help keep drivers safer.”

According to crash statistics, SR 169 has seen eight head-on crashes over the last five years. Five of those were fatal.

With the signs up along the corridor, law enforcement has the ability to issue citations to drivers who do not have their headlights on.

The only other corridor in Arizona where daytime headlight signs are located is along SR 89 between Chino Valley and I-40. Those signs were put up about two years ago.

From the Director: ADOT making significant strides when it comes to traffic safety

From the Director: ADOT making significant strides when it comes to traffic safety

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From the Director: ADOT making significant strides when it comes to traffic safety

From the Director: ADOT making significant strides when it comes to traffic safety

By John Halikowski / ADOT Director
August 18, 2020

Earlier this week, the Federal Highway Administration made public the results of the State Safety Performance Targets for 2018. It was heartening to see that Arizona rated “met or made significant progress.”

At the same time, there are still far too many preventable collisions occurring on all Arizona roadways – state highways, county roads, city streets and tribal roads – and we can all make better decisions behind the wheel that will result in fewer crashes.

Reducing crashes isn’t something that ADOT alone can address because more than two-thirds of crashes happen on roads other than the state highway system. That’s one reason why traffic safety stakeholders throughout Arizona are working together on Arizona’s Strategic Traffic Safety Plan (STSP). ADOT leads this effort, which is a comprehensive framework for reducing fatalities and serious injuries on all public roadways, and includes federal, state, local and other safety stakeholders. The purpose of the STSP is to bring together city, county, federal and other stakeholders to leverage our collective resources and work together to address transportation safety issues.

When making improvements to highways, ADOT looks for ways to include elements that increase safety for all roadway users, including bicyclists and pedestrians. Here are a few recent examples from around Arizona:

  • In Flagstaff, construction of a new, wider Fourth Street bridge over Interstate 40 will improve traffic flow and have a dedicated path for bicycles and pedestrians, connecting the Flagstaff Urban Trail System across the interstate.
  • The I-10 restriping project near the Loop 101 interchange in Phoenix’s West Valley improved safety and traffic flow. After adjusting lanes, restriping and making sign upgrades, traffic backups have been reduced and DPS is receiving fewer calls to respond to fender-benders in the area.
  • Phase 2 of the Interstate 19/Ajo Way Traffic Interchange project in Tucson has improved traffic flow and safety due to the widening of I-19 and Ajo Way/State Route 86 and will replace the Michigan Avenue pedestrian bridge.

These are just some of the engineering examples that are improving Arizona’s state highway system. Many other projects are planned or under construction. But even with highways built to exacting safety standards, we still need drivers to make good decisions behind the wheel.

Looking back at past Safety Message Contest winners

Looking back at past Safety Message Contest winners

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Looking back at past Safety Message Contest winners

Looking back at past Safety Message Contest winners

By Doug Pacey / ADOT Communications
August 14, 2020

ADOT announced the winners of our Safety Message Contest earlier this week, marking the completion of our fourth annual contest. Back in 2017, when we launched the first one, we weren’t sure how it would go – would it be successful or totally ignored?

The answer came quickly when we received about 3,000 submissions in the first 24 hours. In total, more than 17,000 traffic safety messages have been entered over the years and nine have been voted winners by the public. The competition is steep, but you’re much more likely to win this contest – about 1 in 1,889 entries is a winner – than the lottery.

What we like most about the contest is the public engagement it generates. We truly enjoy seeing the ideas people come up with and hope they continue these traffic safety-themed conversations with their families, friends and coworkers.

We also fill with pride when other states use Arizona’s winning messages on their own message boards – Iowa DOT used one of our first winning messages last summer.

Here’s a look at the past winners in our Safety Message Contest.

ADOT reveals winners of Safety Message Contest

ADOT reveals winners of Safety Message Contest

I-17 101 traffic interchange

ADOT reveals winners of Safety Message Contest

ADOT reveals winners of Safety Message Contest

August 11, 2020

PHOENIX – A mystery person and a husband-and-wife team of a hero hiker and a kindergarten teacher are the winners of ADOT’s Safety Message Contest.

More than 5,500 votes were cast by the public for the 12 message finalists. The top two vote-getters and winners are:

SIGNAL AND

READY TO MINGLE

 

RED FISH

BLUE FISH

SPEEDING’S FOOLISH

“We’ve been amazed at the level of public interest each time we’ve held this contest and this year is no different,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Thousands of Arizonans sent us their messages and thousands more voted for their favorite. The purpose of displaying unconventional safety messages is to get people engaged and talking about making safer and smarter decisions behind the wheel. In that respect, this effort is a success.”

The identity of the author of “signal and ready to mingle” is unknown. Contest entrants have the option to include contact information when they submit their message, but contact information is not required and none was included with this entry. This is the first time in four years a winning message has gone uncredited in ADOT’s Safety Message Contest.

Scott and Paula Cullymore of Mesa teamed up to create the Seussian “red fish, blue fish, speeding’s foolish” message.

“It was almost to the deadline and I asked my wife, who’s a kindergarten teacher, if she had any ideas,” Scott said. “She said, ‘This week is Dr. Seuss Week,’ and that’s how the message came to be. She gets all the credit.”

Encouraging safe and smart behavior isn’t new to Scott. An avid hiker, he’s been known to hand out bottled water to dehydrated hikers on Camelback Mountain. He’s hopeful the message results in fewer speeders.

“This message is short and fast and you can read it almost without thinking,” he said. “Hopefully, it sticks with people.”

These winning messages will be displayed on overhead message boards at a later date. Currently, message boards are displaying regular traffic information and COVID-19 safety messages.

More than 4,000 messages were submitted to the contest this year. ADOT whittled the entries down to 12 finalists and a public vote determined the winning messages. 

ADOT displays unconventional safety messages on Dynamic Message Signs as part of an effort to change driver behavior and encourage motorists to make better decisions while driving. According to national statistics, driver behavior, like choosing to speed, driving distracted, impaired or reckless, plays a role in more than 90% of vehicle crashes.

I-17 thermal-camera system reliable in detecting wrong-way vehicles

I-17 thermal-camera system reliable in detecting wrong-way vehicles

I-17 101 traffic interchange

I-17 thermal-camera system reliable in detecting wrong-way vehicles

I-17 thermal-camera system reliable in detecting wrong-way vehicles

July 2, 2020

PHOENIX – The pilot Interstate 17 thermal camera system in Phoenix has proven to be a reliable way to detect wrong-way vehicles, alert law enforcement and warn other drivers to reduce the risk of crashes involving often-impaired wrong-way drivers. The Arizona Department of Transportation has already expanded use of the technology, with plans to do more as time and funding allow.

Those are among the key findings in an assessment of ADOT’s first-in-the-nation wrong-way vehicle detection and warning system along I-17. The report includes recommendations for components to be added at urban and rural locations as funding becomes available. 

Compared to waiting for 911 calls from other drivers, the immediate alerts provided by thermal camera detections result in faster response times by law enforcement, a finding borne out by ADOT’s assessment of the I-17 system.

“The I-17 pilot system has delivered positive results and helped provide a road map for expanding use of technology to reduce the risk from wrong-way drivers,” said Dallas Hammit, ADOT’s state engineer and deputy director for transportation. “We’re using the thermal camera technology elsewhere and have established plans for other areas, including rural locations. I want to stress that thermal cameras can’t stop someone from being a wrong-way driver. But they are a big part of our efforts to reduce the risks associated with often-impaired wrong-way drivers.”

Meanwhile, the thermal camera detection technology that is key to the I-17 system has now been installed at most interchanges along the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway. Installations are underway along Loop 303 in the West Valley, and the technology will be added as part of Loop 101 expansion projects that are under construction east of I-17 and also south of US 60.

ADOT also has converted thermal cameras already used on traffic signals at more than a dozen interchanges in the Valley to send alerts to the Traffic Operations Center and the Arizona Department of Public Safety when wrong-way vehicles are detected. Those include four locations along the Loop 101 Agua Fria Freeway (59th, 67th and 75th and Northern avenues), I-17 at 19th Avenue and Jomax Road, I-10 at 27th and 91st avenues, and multiple intersections along State Route 347 between I-10 and Maricopa.

The $4 million I-17 pilot system was funded by Proposition 400, the dedicated sales tax for transportation improvements approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004. Since the system began operating in January 2018 between the I-10 “Stack” interchange and Loop 101, it has detected more than 100 vehicles traveling the wrong way, mostly on exit ramps and frontage roads along the Black Canyon Freeway. Drivers of most of those vehicles either turned around on exit ramps or pulled into driveways or parking lots without entering I-17 in the wrong direction.

The alert system also features specialized internally illuminated wrong-way signs with flashing LED lights along I-17 off-ramps, designed to get the attention of a wrong-way driver.

The system’s 90 thermal cameras are positioned to detect wrong-way vehicles entering off-ramps or traveling along the freeway in areas between the I-10 “Stack” interchange near downtown and the Loop 101 interchange in north Phoenix. Through a computerized decision-support system, the system also triggers the internally illuminated “Wrong Way” signs with flashing red lights aimed at getting the attention of wrong-way drivers. At the same time, the system immediately alerts AZDPS and ADOT, allowing law enforcement to respond immediately and ADOT to immediately alert other freeway drivers with “Wrong Way Driver/Ahead/Exit Freeway” warnings on overhead message boards.

In addition to installations completed and planned, ADOT is prepared to work with regional planners on adding wrong-way vehicle alert technology elsewhere as funding becomes available. The priority will be locations with the greatest incidence of wrong-way incursions.

“We’re working on determining locations in greater Arizona where thermal cameras could be added for example on overhead message signs or at strategically identified interchanges along rural highways,” Hammit said. “Locations along I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff are planned if and when funding is identified.”

One example of the technology’s performance was in summer 2018, when thermal cameras on I-17 detected a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction south from Loop 101. State troopers stopped the driver, who exited the freeway and re-entered going the right way in the northbound lanes. In early 2019, a thermal camera detection at I-17 and Camelback Road led to state troopers stopping a wrong-way pickup in the travel lanes. 

There have been successes beyond the I-17 pilot area as well. In August 2019, a thermal camera at I-10 and 27th Avenue alerted ADOT and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to a commercial truck entering the freeway in the wrong direction. Law enforcement stopped the driver on I-17 near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. In 2017, a thermal camera being tested at the Loop 101 Agua Freeway Freeway interchange at 75th Avenue detected a wrong-way vehicle on an off-ramp, helping state troopers stop the vehicle near Grand Avenue.

Longer-term and subject to funding availability, ADOT’s assessment of the I-17 pilot system also recommends installing the internally illuminated, flashing “Wrong Way” sign at urban locations with thermal camera detection. ADOT’s overhead message boards could be used as locations for additional thermal cameras above the roadway in urban and rural areas. 

Traffic fatalities in Arizona reached a 3-year low in 2019

Traffic fatalities in Arizona reached a 3-year low in 2019

I-17 101 traffic interchange

Traffic fatalities in Arizona reached a 3-year low in 2019

Traffic fatalities in Arizona reached a 3-year low in 2019

June 30, 2020

PHOENIX – Traffic crash fatalities on Arizona roadways in 2019 fell to their lowest total in three years, according to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report published Tuesday, June 30.

Total traffic crash fatalities was one of several key measurements that decreased in 2019 from 2018. The 2019 report also tallied fewer pedestrian fatalities, alcohol-related fatalities, fatalities of those not wearing seat belts and distracted drivers involved in crashes compared to the previous year.

The Arizona Department of Transportation produces the annual Motor Vehicle Crash Facts Report, which is a compilation of traffic crash reports provided by law enforcement agencies around the state. The report reflects crash data for all Arizona roadways, including city streets, county roads, reservation roads and state highways. 

While the total number of fatalities decreased, the total number of crashes in Arizona rose by 1.6% from 2018 to 2019. In the same timespan, Arizona saw the total number of licensed drivers increase by 1.3% to 5.38 million.

Reducing crashes, fatalities and injuries can’t be solved by state agencies alone because 68% of crashes occur on roads other than state highways. In fact, real change must begin in the driver’s seat because driver behavior is a factor in more than 90% of collisions. Some of those behaviors saw better results in 2019 than recent years, but there are still too many preventable crashes, fatalities and injuries occurring on Arizona’s roads.

The report shows that at least 10,491 drivers involved in collisions during 2019 engaged in “distracted driving behavior.” This is an 11.8% decrease from 2018, when the figure was 11,898. In April 2019, when Governor Doug Ducey signed HB 2318, it became illegal for drivers to talk or text on a cellphone while driving unless the device is in a hands-free mode.

Arizona continues to see fewer deaths related to drinking and driving and not wearing seat belts. Alcohol-related fatalities decreased for the third straight year, falling 21% since 2017, and the 256 fatalities in 2019 is the lowest total since 2010. The number of people killed not wearing seat belts fell for the fifth year in a row – from 258 in 2015 to 211 in 2019 – but unbuckled occupants still account for about a fifth of all traffic fatalities.

Pedestrian fatalities fell to their lowest total since 2016, with 220 in 2019. Most pedestrian fatalities occur on surface streets in urban areas, and pedestrians should cross streets only at marked crosswalks where drivers expect to see them.

Crashes involving bicyclists and motorcycles continued a years-long downward trend. The 1,275 total crashes involving bicyclists in 2019 are the fewest since at least 1991 – crashes involving bikes peaked in 2012 with 2,146. Crashes involving motorcycles declined for the third straight year and reached their lowest total (2,676) since 2004. Yet, despite the decrease in crashes for these categories, each saw a year-over-year increase in bicyclists and motorcycle operators and passengers killed in vehicle collisions.

The full 2019 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report is available at azdot.gov/CrashFacts.

Contest names ADOT's dust storm ditty

Contest names ADOT's dust storm ditty

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Contest names ADOT's dust storm ditty

Contest names ADOT's dust storm ditty

By John Tucker / ADOT Communications
June 29, 2020

It’s a tale as old as dust. Two down-on-their-luck songwriters team up and, against all odds, finagle a meeting with producers of a wildly successful website. At the meeting, the duo pitches co-writing a theme song. The producers are not impressed and summon security to toss the pair out. But one producer speaks out. She proposes giving the duo a chance, but with a catch. They must produce a song about dust storm safety and turn it around in one day. If they succeed, it might lead to future opportunities.

The songwriters take the challenge, write a catchy song and recruit gifted musicians to record it. The resulting recording takes the land by storm, becoming No. 1 Solid Gold on the Billboard Hot 100 and significantly boosting the website’s profile.

Time out for a reality check!

The account above is based on a true story, but I’ve taken artistic license with the facts for dramatic effect.

Now, it’s time to reveal the true back story of this "Behind the Music" tall tale.

John Walradt and I both work at ADOT – John as a graphic designer and I as a community relations project manager. We’ve played music together in the past and both enjoy songwriting. We decided to approach our co-workers in charge of the ADOT Kids program about adding some music to the interactive website.

The ADOT Kids producers warmed to the idea after hearing recordings of some of our individual songs. Our first thought was to co-write a theme song for the website, but the producers saw an opportunity to try something different to promote ADOT’s annual Pull Aside, Stay Alive campaign, which focuses on dust-storm safety. They asked us to compose a song for young people that emphasizes how to stay safe in a dust storm.   

John composed the verses and I wrote the chorus. We split up the lyric writing, each penning a verse and collaborating on the chorus. We recorded a rough cut of the song and shared it with the ADOT Kids producers who approved the project.

Next, we recruited in-house talent to help us record the song. In keeping with safety guidelines due to the current public health situation, we recorded the song parts individually. With help from ADOT’s Video Services team, I laid down a guitar track and lead vocal track in the recording booth at ADOT. That me in the booth in the top photo. Next, Gaby Kemp, another community relations project manager, and her talented daughters Naomi, 7, and Raquel, 6, added enthusiastic background vocals.

Doug Nick, assistant communications director for customer outreach and an accomplished drummer, recorded a drum track at home and emailed it to John, who added a keyboard part and vocal harmony in his home studio. As this photo shows, John mixed all the tracks and, voilà, the yet-unnamed dust storm song was brought to life.

Although the “true” story pales in comparison to the hyped "Behind the Music" version, I still feel like we turned dust into gold, gold forged through teamwork and a spirit of fun.

There's just one little catch: This future hit still needs a name! And that's where you come in. Whether you're a kid or a kid at heart, we need your help coming up with a fun title for our song.

So here's how you help. First off, give our song a listen, then email your idea for a title to [email protected] by close of business Monday, July 6, and we'll pick our favorite. We'll announce the winners next week on the ADOT Blog and on ADOT's social media channels. 

QUIZ: Are you prepared for dust storms?

QUIZ: Are you prepared for dust storms?

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QUIZ: Are you prepared for dust storms?

QUIZ: Are you prepared for dust storms?

By David Rookhuyzen / ADOT Communications
June 19, 2020

You are driving down the highway when, straight ahead, you see a wall of swirling dust in front of you. It's a dust storm on the move, and it's crossing the highway. What do you do?

Planning for changing weather conditions is a must for all drivers. We talk a lot about how you should "Know Snow," but making the right choices when encountering a dust storm is equally important. That's why we put together this quiz to see if you know how to keep yourself safe. Whether you are learning for the first time or just need a refresher, test your knowledge of dust storm safety tips in the quiz below!

You can also find more information at FocusOnDriving.com and PullAsideStayAlive.org.