PHOENIX - We've seen multiple wrong-way crashes this week and another one last night. This one happened in Casa Grande on the I-10 near State Route 387. The wrong-way driver collided head-on with a commercial vehicle which was then rear-ended by another car. Police say the wrong-way driver appeared to be impaired. She was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries from the crash and will face a number of charges. We're told the drivers of the other two vehicles are OK. This is the fourth wrong-way crash in Arizona this week.
Drinking and driving and getting on the freeway going the wrong way - it continues to happen again and again in Arizona. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 32 highway crashes caused by a wrong-way driver. A total of 16 people have been killed so far. And Thursday, that total could have gone up - a speeding pickup flew past oncoming traffic, crashing through two DPS troopers before the driver came to a stop and was taken into custody. This is the fourth wrong-way driving incident just this week.
DPS troopers Thursday afternoon arrested their 71st wrong-way driver. Troopers say he was impaired when he got on the I-10 west in the eastbound HOV lane. An East Valley couple and their bay nearly changed lanes into the path of the speeding pickup but luckily stopped moments before it barrelled past them. The frazzled driver estimates he was going about 90 miles an hour.
"I saw my life flash through my eyes with my daughter in the backseat and my husband next to me," said Shannon Saldana who was almost hit by a wrong-way driver. "It was terrifying."
Saldana was driving east on I-10 and was trying to get into the HOV lane to transition to the 202. But before she did, she noticed traffic ahead of her was coming to a standstill.
"I looked up and all these cars were slowing down and it was a wrong-way driver speeding in the HOV lane," Saldana said. "I was about to move over and I stopped and that guy went flying. Following that, two DPS officers were chasing after him."
DPS says they responded to calls of a black Chevy pickup that was going west on the eastbound lanes of the I-10 near Chandler Boulevard. A trooper tried to block the HOV lane but the pickup crashed into the patrol car and kept going. The driver then went around another patrol car. All of this happened with dozens of vehicles on the road.
"It was pretty packed," Saldana said. "But luckily, by [some sort of] miracle, people were able to move over."
The driver eventually stopped and tried to run off but was quickly arrested. On average, 10 wrong-way drivers are arrested for DUI every month in Arizona. So far, 16 people have been killed in wrong-way crashes just this year. Saldana said that number couldn've increased by three today had she changed lanes.
"This is ridiculous and pathetic," she said. "I don't know why this keeps happening. People need to stop driving drunk or impaired."
ADOT has done a lot to try and prevent more wrong-way drivers and deadly crashes. They've added more signs, more flashing lights, and they rolled out a $4 million warning system that includes thermal cameras. But law enforcement officials say nearly all drivers who caused crashes this year were impaired, which means they missed or ignored all the warning signals that they were driving the wrong way.