WICKENBURG, AZ. — After seeing a sharp increase in traffic fatalities on US 93 near Wickenburg, Yavapai County deputies are now doing more to help state troopers patrol the remote stretch of highway.
YCSO Sgt. Daniel Moralez grew up around Congress, AZ, a small town near US 93 between Wickenburg and Kingman. Since he became a deputy nine years ago, serving this same area, Moralez estimates he has responded to at least 100 bad crashes on US 93.
US 93, which is the main route from Phoenix to Las Vegas, has 30 miles of 2-lane highway near Congress. Moralez said many of these accidents involve travelers or truckers who are speeding or passing in prohibited areas.
"They're not familiar with how narrow the road is and with the general amount of traffic they have on the road," Moralez said. "Especially at nighttime, it's very dark out there."
The Yavapai County Sheriff worked with county supervisors, local judges, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to boost enforcement on US 93. Deputies in the surrounding patrol district are asked to spend at least one hour per shift patrolling the highway.
Since the deputies started extra patrols in July, they issued 76 tickets, mostly for criminal acts like reckless driving or excessive speeding.
The extra enforcement efforts began just weeks after the ABC15 investigative series of "Deadly Gamble" reports aired, which exposed how accidents on the highway increased over the years, and fatalities spiked in 2020.
In 2020, nine people died in crashes along US 93 between Wickenburg and Wikieup.
The number of fatalities increased in 2021 to at least 13 people, based on ABC15's count of police and media reports.
Most of the fatal wrecks, including one that seriously injured a DPS trooper this year, happened on the 30 miles of highway that remain two lanes.
"I've been with my wife and my daughter, and I've been driving the way you should be, and there's a car in my lane heading my way, and we have to slow it down, go off the road," said Bagdad resident Daniel Gradillas, who started a Facebook group called US93 AKA "Bloody Alley."
With 700 followers so far, Gradillas hopes the Facebook page can put pressure on the governor, state legislature, and the Arizona Department of Transportation to fast-track widening the two-lane sections to a four-lane divided highway.
"We've pretty much told them to act, and we get responses such as 'it's not a high priority right now,' "it's the driver's error,' or 'it's their fault,'" Gradillas said.
ADOT plans to start to widen five miles of US 93 in 2022 between Wickenburg and Congress. No widening projects have been approved for the other 25 miles, but transportation workers plan to add centerline rumble strips.
In addition to Yavapai deputies' patrolling efforts, DPS has conducted special enforcement details about once a month since the April crash that seriously injured the trooper and killed two other people.
"All of us working together, we can slow folks down," Moralez said.
On a drive that can be a deadly gamble, Sgt. Moralez hopes to improve everyone's chances of arriving alive.