CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami) – The next time you drive on the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike in Miami-Dade County or on the Sawgrass Expressway in Broward County be on the lookout for some new road signs. The signs will alert drivers who are traveling the wrong way and send word to Florida Highway Patrol troopers for an instantaneous response.
The families of two women killed in a wrong way crash last year on the Sawgrass Expressway hope the signs save lives.
Gary Catronio believes the high tech, solar powered, radar enabled sign is about to make our highways safer. Catronio’s daughter Marisa and her friend Kaitlyn Ferrante were killed by a wrong way driver last November on the Sawgrass Expressway.
“This is spectacular,” Catronio told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “We’re finally gonna get the opportunity to slow down, potentially stop these wrong way drivers.”
Christine Ferrante, Kaitlyn’s mother, echoed those sentiments.
“Hopefully, these signs will be able to save a life,” Ferrante said. “It’s too late for Marisa and Katie but hopefully it won’t be too late for someone else.”
The Florida Department of Transportation says there are fifteen of the signs now collecting data on the Sawgrass Expressway and the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike in Miami-Dade. We’re told there were 6 wrong way crashes and 6 wrong way drivers on that stretch of the turnpike over the past 3 years. The pilot program will cost the state about 400-thousand dollars and was in the works prior to the deadly crash that left suspected drunken wrong way driver Kayla Mendoza facing DUI Manslaughter charges for the crash that killed Catronio and Ferrante.
The Florida Department of Transportation says the signs will light up once a wrong way driver makes a wrong turn. If the driver continues on the highway photos of the car will be sent to FHP, warning messages will appear on the highway and troopers will be dispatched.
“You don’t have to worry about the confusion of phone calls and where things are going,” Catronio said. “People are on their way to try and help you and that’s what this is all about.”
Signs like the ones on the Sawgrass and Turnpike are in place in other parts of the country and officials say they have been effective.
Gary Catronio hopes they become a part of the highway landscape throughout Florida, as he continues his transformation from grieving father to tireless advocate.
“A light comes on and all of a sudden, you say, ‘Hey. I gotta do this,'” Catronio said. “It’s like passing a baton. The baton was passed to us now by Katie and Marisa and we’re gonna run with it.”
The Florida Department of Transportation says the pilot program will likely last about a year and, based on the information they collect, a decision will be made on whether to purchase the signs and install them permanently.
Gary Catronio has another idea he’s working on. He’s hoping to bring retractable stop strips — the items that puncture tires — to these interchanges to stop a wrong way driver in their tracks.
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