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DPS says average wrong-way drivers are double legal limit, have priors

LISTEN: Colonel Frank Milstead, Director of Arizona Department of Public Safety

PHOENIX — While 20 to 25 percent of wrong-way drivers are not impaired, suffering from confusion, dementia, or other medical conditions, many of the cases are related to alcohol or drugs.

“So there are other reasons that it happens, but the other thing that’s absolutely staggering is the average blood alcohol concentration of someone we arrest for driving the wrong way on a highway is a .189,” Col. Frank Milstead, the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Friday.

“The other thing that’s interesting is 44 percent of all of those people have got a prior DUI.”

When asked what could be done to help combat the number of wrong-way drivers, Milstead was quick to answer.

“It’s got to become socially unacceptable to drive impaired. It just has to be that, it has to be society becoming outraged with people who do it and until that happens we’re doing what we can,” Milstead said.

Although wrong-way drivers are still present, Milstead has seen encouraging signs as big events and people both seem to be handling themselves better

Other ways DPS has tried to limit wrong-way driving have been with the use of large wrong-way signs, overhead Arizona Department of Transportation signs, and reflectors that shine red when driving the wrong direction.

DPS has even looked into outside resources to help find an answer to the wrong-way driving problem.

“I actually sat through our new training at DPS, we’re going off what they are doing in Utah and we’re trying to come up with some ways that we can impact those that are driving the wrong way and intercept them and get them off the roadway,” Milstead said.

Utah’s strategy calls for a closure of a part of the freeway where the officer can immobilize the driver using a PIT maneuver without the chance of injuring other motorists.

And while the plan sounds good on paper, it is still a risky choice for DPS as a “perfect scenario” has to be present for the stop to work effectively without harming anyone.

“It actually scares me a little bit because we are putting troopers in harms way, we are trying to do it as safely as possible.”


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