PHOENIX — The director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety said a lack of police officers is one of the main reasons there are more wrong-way drivers on state freeways.
“All of the cities are understaffed. Every police department has fewer officers out on the street,” Col. Frank Milstead told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Friday.
“There is not as much what refer to as on-view police work going on,” he said, before clarifying that on-view police work is when an officer spots a potential crime instead of being alerted to one by dispatch.
Milstead said his agency has already received 52 more wrong-way driver calls this year when compared to the same time last year. He attributed part of the uptick to the aformentioned issue of not having enough city police officers, specifically those who may stop inebriated drivers before they reach a highway.
“I think a lot of it has to do with (local police) not stopping as many [potential wrong-way drivers] in the cities,” he said.
Milstead said people seem to be more aware of wrong-way drivers because they hear about them more often.
“We have the camera systems on the roadway to identify (wrong-way drivers),” he said. “I think you have the social media aspect that people are there recording things, a cell phone in people’s hands.”
Milstead said the Arizona Department of Transportation is spending millions of dollars to figure out how to stop wrong-way drivers. He said some solutions, such as spikes at the end of freeway ramps or other physical obstacles, won’t stand up under heavy traffic conditions.
“The bottom line is 100,000 cars per day use those ramps and nothing is durable enough,” he said.
The director said his agency’s latest solution is a system of flashing lights that will only be turned on when a wrong-way driver is detected. That system will likely debut on Interstate 17 in the summer.
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