BGSU invention aims to stop wrong-way drivers PDF Print E-mail
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor   
Tuesday, 07 May 2013 09:40
BGSU seniors Seth Cooper (left) and Kevin Baumann with their model of a system they developed to stop wrong way drivers. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Two technology students were moved to invent a solution to prevent drivers from heading the wrong way on divided highways.
The deaths of three Bowling Green State University students last year, caused by a driver headed the wrong way on Interstate 75, prompted an effort to prevent such senseless deaths in the future.
"That's what we want to fix. We don't want things like that to happen," said Seth Cooper, a senior engineering technology major from Bucyrus.
Cooper worked with Kevin Baumann, a senior engineering technology major from Columbus, in their capstone tech class to design a system to stop wrong-way drivers while they were still on the ramp for the highway.
"Our goal is to stop them before they get off the ramp," Baumann said.
Here's how their invention works. Magnetic systems would be installed in the roadway, similar to those that activate stoplights when cars come to intersections. In this case, though, there would be a second magnetic system installed further onto the ramp, so it could be detected if a vehicle was moving the wrong direction. If the wrong-way system is activated, an embedded spike strip would extend to puncture the tires of the car while it is still moving slow enough to not cause the driver to lose control. The spikes would be similar to those used in paid parking lots.
At the same time, lights would be activated on the signs notifying the wrong-way driver of their error, and alerting those exiting on the ramp that a wrong-way driver is ahead.
"The majority happen at night. And the majority of these drivers are drunk," Baumann said of the plan to illuminate signs warning the right-way drivers.
Though Cooper graduated last weekend, and Baumann will graduate next year, both hope their project will be continued by future tech students. They hope sponsors will be found to help fund prototypes.
"The idea was to get the seed planted," Baumann said.
"We'd definitely like to see it move on to someone else," Cooper said. "No one likes to hear any of the tragic stories that go along with this."
However, the students know their invention comes with a big price tag - between $150,000 and $200,000.
And both hope that one day technology will make it possible for each vehicle to be equipped with a wrong-way direction system that will disable it electronically.
"Hopefully, this one day becomes ancient technology," Baumann said of their invention.
John Sinn, chairman of the BGSU Department of Engineering Technology, praised the wrong-way driving project as fulfilling electro-mechanical requirements and meeting a social need.
"This clearly qualifies that way," Sinn said. "This is quite innovative."
"I regret we have to sit here and talk about wrong-way drivers," he said, but the project has the potential to become a reality.
"This project should be attractive to agencies like ODOT and NTSB," Sinn said. "I think it does have the possibility for external support."

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