Traffic accidents involving wrong-way drivers can be catastrophic because these types of accidents involve head-on collisions and high speeds. Yet, wrong way driving is an epidemic throughout Wisconsin, according to the state police, and it is increasing the risk of serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents.

There were over 500 wrong way driving crashes in the state last year. These accidents usually caused death, personal injury or serious property damage. Wrong way driving usually involves an impaired motorist, according to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. That agency alone stopped 56 wrong-way drivers during the last three years. In these stops, 50 motorists were impaired by alcohol or drugs and the remaining drivers were confused.

The sheriff’s department has already stopped 15 wrong-way drivers this year. All of them were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The median blood alcohol content was .15%, which is almost twice the legal limit. Most of these accidents take place between 8 pm and 4 am. They are twice as likely to occur on a weekend.

The state is taking action to combat this problem. In Milwaukee County, the installation of “do not enter” signs have doubled, along with wrong way signs at ramp terminals and exit ramp bottoms.

The DOT is also using signs and pavement markings to prevent confusion. It is considering ramps that are separated more in future road construction. Installation of LED enhanced signs may also lead to a 38 percent drop in wrong-way driving.

One technology company that works with police also said that it is important for law enforcement to act quickly. In Milwaukee County, a wrong-way alert system installed at 20 locations uses a radar and camera to provide notification of wrong-way driving to a control center.