Arizona transportation agencies hold emergency meeting after 7 killed in 3 wrong-way crashes

PHOENIX - The directors of Arizona's transportation agencies held an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the three wrong-way crashes that have killed seven people in six days, including a Mesa police officer.

The recent string of deadly crashes has caused several of our ABC15 viewers to comment on our Facebook page asking what measures these departments can take to prevent these wrong-way crashes from happening.

Mary Ann Mendoza, the mother of Sgt. Brandon Mendoza, who was killed May 12 by a wrong-way driver, said the deaths are "sickening."

“These are senseless deaths that are happening,” she said. “The state, the city, the highway patrol, they need to get together and they need to get something figured out.”

READ MORE: Brandon Mendoza killed by wrong-way driver
READ MORE: 3 killed in wrong-way crash along Interstate 17
READ MORE: 2 killed in wrong-way crash on Loop 202 in Gilbert

Robert Halliday, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, John Halikowski, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, and Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, said enforcement, engineering and education can help prevent these crashes from happening.

What do the three E's mean for you?

According to an emailed release, enforcement consists of our highway patrol officers continuing to remove impaired drivers from Valley roadways, including distracted drivers.

"Our mission is to protect the lives of people who travel on state highways, I take that very seriously," said Halliday.

Engineering refers to a three-part study ADOT has been working on regarding ways to prevent wrong-way accidents. Read more about the study on abc15.com.

The first part of the study, called the "proof of concept" was completed in March 2013 and indicated that sensors do exist to alert authorities of a wrong-way driver.

The second part of the study is underway, and looks at various ways to alert motorists of a wrong-way driver. The final part of the study will focus on how to alert authorities.

Education is the final "E", and focuses on helping motorists learn defensive driving and how to handle an encounter with a wrong-way driver on the road.

What can you do to be a defensive driver?

The agencies recommend the following:

  • Drive in the center or right lanes, especially when driving overnight.
  • Be a good witness and call 911 with descriptive info if you encounter a wrong-way or erratic driver.
  • "Expect the unexpected" and don't drive distracted.

While the state is studying remedies, “this is an issue that, as long as there's been roads, has been a problem,” ADOT spokesperson Tim Tait said.

“While there might not be an immediate engineering-based strategy ADOT can implement, we are committed to researching national practices for detecting wrong-way drivers, communicating that information to law enforcement and other motorists, and trying to send a message to the wrong-way driver,” Halikowski said in a statement.

Several viewers have been wondering if "stop spikes" along freeway entrance/exit ramps, like what you see at some Arizona parks and parking lots, would make a difference.

Research showed that "stop spikes" can be less effective when driving at high rate of speeds, such as on a Valley highway, rather then the typical slow speeds motorists encounter in a parking lot.

Experts in California tested the idea and noticed that heavy traffic caused these spikes to become damaged.

ADOT said that if a motorist were to enter a freeway in the wrong direction, that motorist would immediately see red "wrong way" signs posted overhead, as well as the red reflectors in the middle of the road.

Motorists going the right way along Arizona freeways see white reflectors.

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