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Signs help prevent wrong way crashes

Wrong way drivers have killed two people on the interstate in Monroe County in just two weeks.

It's scarier than hell, said Frank Newell, who takes I-490 to work. I think about it every day getting in the car, starting my car, am I going to do that is someone else going to do that to me?

Coincidentally, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the state is testing a new way to prevent drivers from going the wrong direction on the thruway.

The state installed new, LED signs at ramps on the Niagara Expressway in Buffalo and will soon put up signs in Rockland County.

The high-tech signs use Doppler Radar to detect a car heading the wrong way on a ramp and flash warnings to driversboth on the ramp and those already driving on the Thruway. When the sign sensors are triggered, LED lights flash alerts like STOP, WRONG WAY and PULL OVER, which change in color from red to white.

The warning signs will be placed in areas where serious wrong way crashes have happened before but only on the Thruwaynot the interstate where the two deadly crashes occurred in Monroe County.

Its a big problem, Newell said, if it happens twice in a month, whats going on here?
Newell said the current interstate signs are cluttered and can do the opposite of what theyre supposed to do.

I myself have had trouble, they're confusing sometimes on both sides, theyre going this way, going that way, there's a sign here, here, and here.

The new LED signs are significantly more expensive than the standard, metal signs; each one costs about $10,000.

Newell said the additional warnings are worth the cost.

Definitely more money probably needs to go into it because two crashes is ridiculous.

One of those crashes touched Newell personally. His close friend, 19-year-old Khadijah McKenzie was killed Nov. 23 when the SUV she was driving was struck by a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on I-490, near downtown.

She was one of the nicest people I know, Newell said. It sucks she had to go.

On Saturday, two weeks after McKenzies death, another woman was killed in a violent crash. Assistant professor at Eastman School of Music, 69-year-old Tatiana Tchekina, died when a car headed the wrong way on 490 hit her SUV head-on.

It is tragic, said Denise Maytas, who understands why some people are looking for a solution but she doesnt think the LED signs are the way to go. Its probably a waste of tax payer money. If theyre drunk they arent paying attention to nothing.

Alcohol is believed to be a factor in both deadly crashes.

If its not signs, Newell said something needs to be done to prevent wrong way crashes on 490.

I passed by it and I got the chills. I don't want that happening to me to my mom, my sister, my dad, my friend.


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Washington Times