New pavement lights, barricades in Orange County aim to stop wrong-way drivers

3 changes made to Old Winter Garden Road exit on SR-408

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Already in 2024, several drivers have lost their lives in several high profile wrong-way crashes on major Central Florida roadways, including I-4 and State Road 429, which is part of the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFEA) - the public agency that operates the local toll roads and has been at the forefront of wrong-way detection technology since 2015.

The CFEA’s Wrong-Way Vehicle Detection System (WWVDS) — lighted flashing wrong-way signs placed at the end of off-ramps that send messages instantaneously to troopers and overhead digital billboards — turn wrong-way drivers around a remarkable 87% percent of the time.

But as CFEA spokesman Brian Hutchings points out, it’s not 100% of the time. Hutchings said the CFEA meets regularly with its consultant and engineers at the University of Central Florida to look at what’s working, what can work better and what exists or has been invented that can raise the percentage of wrong-way driver turnarounds closer to 100%.

Most recently, the team discovered a company had just invented an “iRPM,” or Illuminated Raised Pavement Marker. It’s a flat, battery-powered solar-charging LED-emitting puck the size of a palm that can be installed into the roadway of an off ramp.

“If you’re going down the wrong way, you’ll see these lights,” Hutchings said. “The LEDs are just pointing in one direction, and that’s the wrong way.”

The maker of the iRPM was looking for an agency to road test the device, so the CFEA agreed and was provided enough iRPMs free of charge to install into eight different off-ramps.

Engineers also considered what more they could do to stop drivers from getting onto the wrong ramp in the first place from an access road.

At the Old Winter Garden Road exit on State Road 408, crews have made three changes on Old Winter Garden:

  • They painted large white arrows pointing straight on the surface of the roadway to show drivers they cannot turn the wrong way onto the off-ramp.
  • They added a green illuminated arrow to the overhead traffic signal also pointing straight.
  • And they installed dozens of yellow barriers to make it almost impossible for a driver to turn and go the wrong way onto the ramp even if one wanted to.

The CFEA will now evaluate the changes for the next two years.

“That’s where our partners at UCF and their research team coming into play,” Hutchings said. “So they’ll be analyzing data over the next two years to see how this is performing. The research component is critical to the overall success of trying to get to 100% no wrong-way driving instances.”

And if the changes are getting results, Hutchings said they will be installed into all CFEA off-ramps.

Currently, the Expressway Authority’s highly effective Wrong-Way Vehicle Detection System is installed at two-thirds of its exit ramps - the ones in the core of Central Florida.

By next year, the CFEA plans to have 100% of all off-ramps covered by the WWVDS.

Since first installed in February 2015, the wrong-way system has detected 1,972 cars entering the wrong way and 1,732 of them turned around.

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About the Author

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for News 6 and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting.

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