The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is launching a new initiative that will use technology to detect traffic congestion and warn drivers of dangerous slow-downs.

The initiative will install the new warning systems at 13 highway sites in and around major urban centers that have been identified by ODOT as high-congestion, high-crash areas. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office explained that when cameras at these sites detect slow or stopped traffic, the cameras will automatically trigger a message board a few miles away to alert approaching drivers of the upcoming traffic hazard. Alerts will also be pushed to ODOT’s app and other traffic apps.

“As technology continues to evolve, we’re always looking for new ways to help prevent serious and fatal crashes on our highways,” said Gov. DeWine. “Although we’re confident that these warning systems will help prevent crashes, there is still no substitute for safe driving. For these signs to be effective, drivers must be paying attention.”

The new warning systems are aimed at reducing deadly “end-of-queue” crashes, which are the accidents that occur when highway drivers fail to recognize slowing or stopped traffic, resulting in a collision with vehicles at the end of the slow-down.

ODOT explained in a press release that end-of-queue highway crashes have been increasing over the past three years – to a total of 8,811 crashes in 2023. Once the technology is installed at all 13 sites, ODOT anticipates it will help reduce these rear-end crashes by at least 16 percent, which equates to a reduction of around 1,400 crashes. The new warning systems use similar technology to ODOT’s existing wrong-way driver detection systems, which alert drivers who mistake exit ramps for on-ramps.

“I’m incredibly proud of the efforts our team has made to ensure Ohio is leading the way when it comes to deploying these new resources,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “These new warning systems, combined with Ohio’s toughened distracted driving laws, will surely save lives.”

ODOT explained that it does need time to run electrical and broadband infrastructure to the automated warning sites. Factoring in infrastructure concerns, ODOT said it anticipates all systems to be operational within two years. Additionally, ODOT is also evaluating highway locations in other parts of the state that could benefit from the new technology.

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