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Wednesday, May 31

TransGuide saves lives

Armando Rodriguez discovered this wrong-
way driver headed east on the westbound
lanes of I-10 on the city's northwest side
before the driver could cause harm to other
drivers.
At 1:50 a.m. Sunday 18-year TransGuide veteran Mando Rodriguez got word of a wrong-way driver moving east along I-10 near DeZavala Road. After switching between some of the 193 cameras at his disposal around the city he was able to positively locate the offender and alert the San Antonio Police Department, to which he has a direct line.
Officers were able to head off the driver on the left shoulder of westbound I-10 nearly directly over his office at the intersection of I-10 and I-410 and make an arrest. It was the third wrong-way driver Armando has stopped this year, a new personal record.
Mando and his colleagues have now teamed up to stop six wrong-way drivers since January 1 and have caught 61 since staff started keeping track in 2011. Over that same span 69 wrong-way drivers have caused crashes, killing 27 people and seriously hurting another 25.
The goal is to catch one-hundred percent of offenders before they can do the damage. They need your help to reach that goal.

The mission of Transguide
When TransGuide went operational July of 1995 its primary goal was to monitor traffic and provide live traffic updates to drivers through a system of digital message boards. TransGuide was the first Intelligent Transportation System in the great state of Texas (we have 16 statewide now) and detects disruptions in traffic through a system of sensors and cameras, allowing us to get notifications through social and traditional media as well as through our dynamic message boards. Over the years the mission of TransGuide has not changed, but it has embraced new technologies and agency partners.
For instance SAPD has deployed a dispatcher to the Transguide offices over the years, and a dispatcher for towing services remains at the hub around-the-clock.
Among the new technologies being embraced and employed is radar - a detection system alerting TransGuide staff and SAPD of problems early near the downtown area. Beacons surrounding Wrong Way signs have also been added along freeway entrance ramps to catch the attention of those mistakenly using these ramps as on-ramps.
New cameras with updated equipment (fiber optics and wireless systems are replacing older connectivity methods) are being installed wherever new projects are being built (and no, none of them record video). With expanded coverage comes improved capabilities - about half the crashes occurring since 2011 are outside the TransGuide coverage area. Two-thirds of the fatalities were outside the watch area.
This shows the locations of all WWD crashes in Bexar County since 2011. The black marks are in areas the TransGuide team doesn't yet have eyes.

Historic heroes
The team's arguably best year was 2014, when they caught 11 wrong-way drivers and only missed eight. Then there was 2012, where 13 WWDs were caught (nine got through).
Since 2011 Benjamin Lopez has been the top nabber, thanks in part to his regular work during overnight hours. Seven of the 11 WWDs caught in 2014 were by Benjamin - all of them between midnight and 4 a.m.
The team keeps track of each WWD discovered. Their criteria is simple: the WWD must be discovered on TransGuide equipment and stopped by law enforcement as a result of communication from the TransGuide center. The team is interested in lives saved, not just detection. That's how the events are noted in their record books, too - saved lives. As of May 31 the team has been credited with 61 lives saved.
They're an unsung group and deserve some added recognition. Here's the team:
  • Benjamin Lopez, 20 lives saved
  • Michael Barker (retired), 10 lives saved
  • Mando Rodriguez, 7 lives saved
  • Luis Ugarte, 5 lives saved
  • Ishmael Trevino, 5 lives saved
  • John Paniagua (retired), 4 lives saved
  • Derrick Burke (retired), 4 lives saved
  • David Rodrigues, 4 lives saved
  • Christine Jauregui, 2 lives saved

You, too, can be a hero
Sunday's WWD faces police - and
a likely DWI arrest - after being
located by our TransGuide team.
The sad truth we've learned is the overwhelming majority of these wrong-way drivers are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In our crash reports we've seen some test with blood alcohol levels well over .25 - plenty to cause an individual to black out and succumb to alcohol poisoning. These people can barely walk and are still getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
When you are out celebrating a good week, or busy forgetting a rough one, remember to plan ahead for a safe - sober - ride home. Be that sober ride for your friends and family where possible. Staying sober means completely abstaining from alcohol during the day or evening. A sober driver sticks to Sprite or Coke or root beer and makes sure none of their friends make the truly horrible decisions that can ruin lives.
A sober driver is a hero.
In fact, sober drivers should tally their evenings in terms of lives saved - each individual you drive home is a life saved from death, dismemberment or financial (and social) ruin.
With that in mind, how many lives will you save this weekend?

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