The Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) is working with the Central Weather Bureau to install more fog detectors along the Sibin Expressway (Highway 61) after two people died and eight were injured in a multiple-vehicle collision on Sunday morning.
A preliminary investigation by the police showed that the deadly accident on a section between Yunlin and Chiayi counties was mainly caused by low visibility due to dense fog.
The highway authority faced criticism yesterday for only having one fog detector installed along the 301.8km north-south expressway.
It installed the detector in a section in Miaoli County about two years ago because of its proximity to the Baishatun (白沙屯) area, where fog often occurs, agency traffic management division head Hsueh Tsan-tian (薛讚添) said yesterday.
When the device detects that visibility in the section has fallen below 200m, it sends an alert to the traffic control center, which then uses electronic message boards along the road to tell drivers to reduce their speed.
“We will discuss with Central Weather Bureau officials about where additional fog detectors should be installed,” Hsueh said. “If we are short of funding, we will prioritize the installation of the devices.”
In addition to fog detectors, the highway authority plans to install more closed-circuit television cameras, traffic volume detectors, electronic message boards and other devices to enhance safety on the expressway, he said.
The agency would need to budget an estimated NT$200 million to NT$300 million (US$7.1 million to US$10.6 million) to purchase the equipment, he said, adding that it would not be able to finish the installation until 2024.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday approved a plan to enhance drivers’ safety on the Sibin Expressway, including by installing 16 visibility meters along the expressway and five other measures.
The agency also has fog detectors along Highway 7 in Taoyuan’s Fusing District (復興).
However, transportation experts said that installing more fog detectors alone would not prevent incidents such as Sunday’s pileup.
“The devices should mainly be used to issue warnings to drivers who are not yet on the road or who are about to pass through a section with low visibility, so that they can consider changing their travel routes. Drivers who are already in the fog should know what to do to stay safe, and they should not blame it all on the weather when accidents occur,” said Chang Sheng-hsiung (張勝雄), a professor in Tamkang University’s department of transportation management.
Having multiple fog detectors would not make driving on the expressway safer, he said, adding that the right way of driving through a section with low visibility is to gradually reduce speed and not slam on the brakes or stop the vehicle immediately.
Drivers should maintain a safe following distance when operating vehicles in fog, heavy rain or at night, he said.
Tamkang University department of transportation management associate professor Luo Shiaw-shyan (羅孝賢) added that drivers should also remember to turn on their fog lights and hazard lights to protect themselves and alert other drivers.
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