As of April 3, 2018, there have been 11 wrong-way incidents on Valley freeways. Law enforcement officers were able to stop four of these drivers before they caused a crash. In 2017, there were 23 wrong-way incidents.
One of the most recent wrong-way incidents happened on the Loop 202 San Tan freeway last weekend. An 18-year-old man was arrested and charged with DUI, minor consumption and unlawful flight.
A few days earlier, a wrong-way driver went through a break in the freeway barrier on the Red Mountain Loop 202 freeway in Mesa, crashing into another car, injuring all three people inside.
“It’s the math with collisions like this that you cannot ignore,” said Attorney Ken Gerber from Gerber Injury Law. “Add the speed of the two vehicles together to get the overall speed of the impact. On the freeway, with two vehicles, each already traveling at a high rate of speed, hitting head-on, the consequences are extreme and devastating.”
If you’re ever a victim of a wrong-way crash and need a Phoenix car accident lawyer, we have extensive experience at Gerber Injury Law.
Governor Doug Ducey is committed to cracking down on wrong-way drivers. In his State of the State address, he said, “We wake up too frequently these days to the report of another death on our highways. A wrong-way driver — and in many cases, it comes back to drugs and alcohol. You’d think it was obvious by now, but to anyone out there who hasn’t gotten the memo: booze, drugs and driving don’t mix. Your actions are beyond foolish — they are lethal. And we will not tolerate it.”
Research shows that when crashes happen in Arizona, more than 90 percent of the time the cause is due to the result of driver behavior such as speeding, being distracted and impaired. Wrong-way crashes fit this pattern.
ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) has taken extensive steps to address the threat of wrong-way drivers, including installation of a first-of-its-kind thermal camera detection system pilot project on I-17. Also, larger and lowered “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs have been installed on hundreds of freeway ramps and overpasses in Phoenix and rural state highways.
“I’m glad that the state is employing additional technology to detect and warn about wrong-way drivers,” Gerber said. “I worry that it’s not enough and that the test project on I-17 needs to be expanded.”
As a Phoenix car accident lawyer, Gerber knows these measures reduce risk but can’t prevent someone from driving the wrong way. When impairment is the cause often these drivers have blood-alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit.
The state is hoping another deterrent will be in adopting stricter penalties for wrong-way drivers. The Governor signed legislation in March 2018 that now makes it a felony to drive the wrong-way if under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The driver could also get sentenced up to 18 months in prison.
ADOT has also rolled out the “Drive Aware, Get There” safety campaign that aims to reduce your chance of being a victim of a wrong-way crash. The campaign details what drivers should do if they encounter a wrong-way vehicle, see an overhead sign warning of an oncoming wrong-way vehicle and general tips that will keep drivers safer.
“We also need the minimum limits of insurance raised to help those who have been hurt in any kind of a collision,” said Gerber. “Those limits are still $15,000 per person, the same as they were when the mandatory limits were put in place 46 years ago.”
Hopefully, you’ll never be a victim of a car crash involving a wrong-way driver but if you find yourself needing a Phoenix car accident lawyer, please give us a call at Gerber Injury Law for a free consultation.