Sheriff Clarke unveils technology to deter wrong-way drivers

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke on Tuesday, November 20th discussed the issue of wrong-way driving on the Milwaukee County freeway system, and the new technology installed at nine freeway ramps designed to stop drivers before they head the wrong way. This, after the 32nd wrong-way driving incident in Milwaukee County just this year occurred this weekend.

As the holiday travel season is set to kick off, Sheriff Clarke said Tuesday this new technology meant to deter wrong-way drivers will help, but said they cannot solve what he calls a cultural problem.

“The overwhelming majority of people who are getting on the freeway system the wrong way are drunk. It’s a drunk driving problem — not a wrong-way (driving problem),” Sheriff Clarke said.

This week, crews finished installing devices at nine Milwaukee County ramps. Those devices use radar to detect whether someone uses an off ramp to get onto the freeway. 

Stacy Pierce, an engineer with the Wisconsin DOT says the devices will give officials a more accurate idea of just how bad the problem is.

“As soon as there is a detection, a signal will be sent to both the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. Because right now, we’re just not sure how often there are wrong-way drivers that are never detected by the Sheriff’s Office or the DOT,” Pierce said.

Sheriff Clarke touts the devices’ potential to improve response time, but adds the only way to solve the problem is to cut down on drunk driving.

“We’re trying to change a culture and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s gonna take time. With the mixture of initiatives we have, with the public awareness on how much of an epidemic drunk driving is, we’re making gains,” Sheriff Clarke said.

The DOT is still testing the technology to make sure it works. Officials are confident they’ll be fully-functioning by Thanksgiving. 

Then, the DOT and the Sheriff’s Office will look at the results and see whether the devices should be moved to other ramps.

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