Traffic System to Help Prevent Fog-Related Accidents

November 3, 2008 8:49:41 PM PST
It's one of the worst accidents in valley history. November third, 2007. A foggy morning on Highway 99 near American Avenue turned into a chaotic scene of mangled vehicles, emergency crews scrambling to find the 30 plus people injured, and the two that didn't make it out alive. A year later Caltrans is installing a multi-faceted traffic system along a stretch of Highway 99 with high expectations. Eric Alvarez with Caltrans calls it, "The best kept traffic secret in the United States." He said there are 5 parts to the new traffic system including a fog and weather sensor, closed circuit cameras, and message boards. All strategically placed along 12 miles of Highway 99 from the Tulare/Fresno county line north to Manning Avenue. Alvarez said "All of these items are going to be integrated to be able to talk to each other on an automated basis. So when fog begins to develop these systems can then trigger these message signs to let motorists know quickly and efficiently about whether they need to slow down or come to a complete stop if necessary."

Once a problem on the highway is detected it goes from the sensor, to the camera, to the giant message boards in less than 30 seconds. CHP officer Matt Radke said "Hopefully the system will allow for traffic to slow down before that 2 car, 3 car, 25 car crash happens that turn into that 86 or 100 car crash we've had in the past."

Radke said the ultimate goal is to save lives but cautions the system won't work if drivers are distracted. "We want you to be aware and slow down yourself and take responsibility for your driving but this another tool that we're going to implement."

There's a similar traffic program in Stockton that Caltrans says has been successful in preventing major chain-reaction accidents. The 12 million dollar Fresno County project has more advanced technology that will deliver important information to you the driver in a matter of seconds. Caltrans hopes to have the traffic system up and going by Christmas and if it's successful it may be expanded it to I-5.

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