Seven Wrong-Way Crashes On Arizona Freeways In 2017

A wrong-way driver collided with another car on I-17 near Greenway on April 14, killing three people. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Dept. of Public Safety)

By Jenna Aronson

Phoenix – Early Friday morning, a wrong-way crash on I-17 near Greenway Road killed three people.

It was the seventh wrong-way accident with injuries or fatalities in 2017, according to Kameron Lee, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

The wrong way driver, a 22-year-old man, drove southbound in the northbound lanes around 2:30 a.m. before crashing into the other car, according to DPS. Grand Canyon University released a statement that two students were killed in the crash; the wrong-way driver as well as one of the people in the car he hit.

“It is with great sorrow and heavy hearts that we share the news that three people, including two students from Grand Canyon University, were killed in a wrong-way driver accident last night on Interstate 17. As a close-knit community of students, faculty and staff, please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers during this tragic time.”

National statistics show 31 percent of wrong-way crashes occur between midnight and 3 a.m. and drivers often mistakenly enter an exit ramp instead of an entrance ramp. This year’s Valley numbers are close to 2016, according to DPS.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said it has taken steps to reduce the risk of wrong-way drivers. ADOT has installed larger “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs along exit ramps at six freeway interchanges. The signs have been lowered on posts to test if that could help in alerting confused or impaired wrong-way drivers.

In addition to the newer and larger signs, ADOT has added pavement markers shaped as arrows pointing the right way along exit ramps. The markers have red reflectors to warn drivers going the wrong way on the ramps.

ADOT is in the final stages of a wrong-way detection pilot project for I-17 in Phoenix to alert motorists, state troopers and other emergency responders when a driver is going the wrong way. The system will include separate wrong-way vehicle detectors on freeway on-ramps as well as warnings on overhead message boards for drivers going the right way. Ramp meters will display a solid red light to keep traffic from entering the freeway when a wrong-way vehicle is detected.

Alberto Gutier, director of Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said the public has to do its part as well.

“People are paying attention to a lot of other things and not focusing on driving. Driving is a privilege,” Gutier said. “People need to drive defensively and defensively means know your surroundings.”

7 Comments on "Seven Wrong-Way Crashes On Arizona Freeways In 2017"

  1. interesting that I don’t remember wrong way drivers being such a problem before what happen?

    • Common Sense | April 15, 2017 at 8:49 am |

      The Dumbing Down because of democratic political correctness taught at universities probably has played a big roll in it Billy B.

      I do not consider driving to be a “privilege” as I pay a lot of monies in TAX’S and FEE’S to the government and mandatory insurance for my RIGHT to be FREE and go where I wish with the mode of transportation I chose.

  2. The Oracle of Tucson | April 15, 2017 at 7:50 am |

    I’ve always wondered if thay placed a STOP sign facing the wrong way before they placed the do not enter or the wrong way signs if that would help the wrong way driver see the do not enter or wrong way signs Vs. the current zooming right past them before entering the deadly dodge-car zone.
    When I was a middle school child (50+Yrs ago) we had a near miss of a head on collision on a divided bridge, everyone got over and honked as the wrong way driver zoomed on by, perhaps never knowing why everyone was honking at him.
    It happend then it happens now, people pay less attention today then they did them, and I truly believe people aren’t “trained” properly to slow down or stop or get over to the right. But one of the biggest factors is the self righteous attitude of entitlement, “I have the right away”, “it’s my lane”. Being right Vs. being dead has very little benefit outside of your families future litigation resulting from your death.
    People simply need to understand you have to pay attention to your vehicle and be on the lookout for others because when your both traveling at 65mph, your hitting head on at 130mph, and that’s a little unrealistic to walk away from.
    Be safe out there.


  3. There were over 1700 wrong way incidents last year….ADOT needs to fix this now….They are aware and this is about to become their own “UNITED AIRLINES” PR nightmare if they do not.

  4. Heather Dale | April 15, 2017 at 12:08 pm |

    You’d think they’d get the idea when they’re looking at headlights, not taillights.

  5. Smoke may have been on their eyes.
    They were waiting for the stop sign to turn green.

  6. I believe there are 2 factors that add to this:

    1) the lights they use in our urban areas are different than other states as we changed them sometime back to decrease the light pollution for our observatories.

    2) bars close at 1 am and all the drunks are pushed out the door. Some get in their cars and drive.

    I believe these are factors.

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