DPS: More eyes on road will stop Valley's wrong-way surge

Posted at 7:19 PM, Mar 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-27 22:19:12-04

Increasing local police traffic squads could help prevent wrong-way crashes on highways, according to one of Arizona's top law enforcement officers.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead spoke exclusively to ABC15 about his theory, based on data showing an increase in wrong-way reports and arrests this year.

Milstead says wrong-way accidents are so devastating because "the closing speeds are so tremendous."

DPS troopers say nearly everybody they stop in these cases are impaired by alcohol or drugs.

"It's social responsibility before it ever becomes a law-enforcement matter," Milstead said.

Milstead said the increase in wrong-way reports doesn't mean more people are drinking and driving.

He says the freeways system doesn't need an overhaul with multi-million dollar sensor systems, either.

He tells ABC15 budget cuts and shrinking police forces are contributing factors in the crashes.

"Everybody had people out arresting drunk drivers at night," Milstead said. "Those are gone. Phoenix P.D. is down to 25 traffic officers for 550 square miles."

Milstead's theory: Local traffic enforcement officers used to spot and pull over some of these DUI drivers before they ever tried to get on the highways.

He says many police departments, including his, have made tough choices because of budget constraints.

"We do little proactive law enforcement, when we could do a lot of it, if we weren't running from call to call to call," Milstead said.

A Phoenix police spokesman tells ABC15 they do focus efforts on combating impaired drivers, and there is no excuse for drunk driving.