Thermal camera system helps stop wrong-way driver in Phoenix

PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) - The Arizona Department of Transportation is crediting its thermal camera-based wrong-way vehicle detection system with stopping an accident from happening on a Phoenix freeway.

They say the detection system alerted authorities and other motorists early Monday about a pickup truck being driven the wrong way on Interstate 17.

State Department of Public Safety troopers took the driver, identified as Diane Begay, into custody and nobody was injured. DPS says Begay, 59, was booked into jail on charges of aggravated DUI and endangerment. She made her initial court appearance before a jailhouse judge.

ADOT officials say the thermal camera detected the truck getting on the freeway about 3 a.m. and DPS troopers were dispatched quickly.

"In this occasion, with red lights and siren coming directly head-on to the impaired driver, she stopped before there was a collision. They both were able to avoid contact," said Col. Frank Milstead, Director of Arizona DPS.

There were plenty of wrong-way warnings on the freeway, and only an oncoming DPS car caught Begay's attention.

"The fact she recognized a trooper's car in the last moments of this intervention is mind-boggling," said Col. Milstead.

The $4 million system involves 90 thermal cameras along 15 miles of I-17.

ADOT officials say the system has been operational for a year and has recorded detections of more than 45 wrong-way vehicles so far.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.