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Wrong-way drivers: What Arizona is doing to solve the problem

Posted: 4:53 PM, Jul 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-01 08:15:17-04
Wrong-way crash

A 20-year-old woman was killed Tuesday night after a wrong-way driver crashed into her vehicle on the Loop 101 near Union Hills Drive, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Wrong-way crashes are one of the many safety concerns that pushed ABC15 to create the Operation Safe Roads initiative.

This topic is not new to Arizona. It is something the community has been discussing for weeks, months and years. So, we decided to ask state officials what is being done to try to combat this issue.

Governor's Office of Highway Safety Director Alberto Gutier said he gets a weekly report compiled by the wrong-way crash task force, which includes statistics from DPS and the Arizona Department of Transportation.

"There have been 1,088 incidents of wrong-way driving...almost 100 more than last year," Gutier said as he read off the page.

That number is for all Arizona freeways and it is actually a success story in his eyes.

Gutier said, that compared to this time last year, DPS has been able to make more DUI arrests and make more contact with wrong-way drivers.

"DPS has the squads on night-watch that actually are out there, not only looking at wrong-way driving but to enforce the law itself... to prevent those kinds of incidents from turning deadly," Gutier explained.

He said Arizona has been watching other states, like Texas and Florida, to see how they deal with their wrong-way crash problems. But, he said Arizona is also leading the way when it comes to technology like the thermal wrong-way detection cameras that have been installed through a pilot program on the I-17.

ABC15 asked Gutier, why those cameras have not been installed anywhere else in the Valley.

"Again, that's an ADOT question," Gutier said. "But, I'll tell you: costs are prohibited. It's a lot of money. It's a lot of miles."

ADOT installed 90 thermal cameras on the I-17 between the I-10 "stack" interchange to the Loop 101 interchange.

ADOT said that since it became operational in January of 2018, the cameras have detected more than 70 wrong-way vehicles. The cost was $4 million.

There was talk last year that ADOT would look into adding it to other freeways, including the new Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway.

But, right now, ADOT said they are still working to complete their evaluation of the pilot program. They said they hope to finish that before the end of 2019.