DPS: Driver in wrong-way crash had DUI history

Posted at 12:58 PM, Apr 04, 2016

The Department of Public Safety says a man who crashed head-on into a van carrying a mother and her three daughters will be charged with aggravated assault and several charges of felony endangerment.

David Van Lenz, 44, is still in the hospital (the mug shot used in this story is from a previous arrest) Monday after the serious wrong-way crash on the Loop 101 early Sunday morning, according to DPS.

Officials suspect impairment as a factor of the crash, but toxicology reports have yet to be completed.

Lenz reportedly has past infractions including a DUI. An interlock device, a system hooked to the ignition to test impairment, was found in the car but there's no word on whether the device was current.

Crash victim Amber Cordner, the woman driving the van with her three daughters inside, told ABC15 that she just wants to be by her daughters' sides as they recover in the hospital.

Her 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter is said to have a broken pelvis. Her grandmother says she will likely be in a wheelchair for quite some time, as DPS says she is expected to be in long-term rehabilitation.

The 6-year-old girl suffered head lacerations and the 2-month-old baby girl will be fine.

The Cordners say they will be setting up a fundraising account to help cover medical costs.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says it is working on ways to alert police and drivers during a wrong-way situation that trouble is in front of them.

One idea would use current freeway traffic flow sensors to alert traffic control, instead of waiting on 911 calls.

"We hope to develop a system and get a prototype developed so it can be installed somewhere along the I-17 here in Phoenix and we can do some further testing," said department spokesperson Doug Nitzel. "We'd love to get that up and running by next year."

ADOT is focusing on Interstate 17 because it sees the most wrong-way crashes.

In each situation, getting information out quickly is the top priority.

"Time is of the essence: how quickly can we notify DPS that a wrong way vehicle can be detected on the off ramp?" Nitzel said.

The fastest way to do that could be using radar detectors on Valley off-ramps, which officials hope to have in place in a couple of months.

In the time since Sunday's crash, several viewers have suggested law enforcement deploy stop sticks to slow wrong-way drivers. But ADOT says that technology is less effective at freeway speeds.

"Even if you used the spike system to spike the tires, there's no guarantee that vehicle wouldn't still make it down onto the free way itself," Nitzel said. "There is no one thing we can say ,this is the panacea to stop this."