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String of deadly Arizona highways crashes worries DPS chief

PHOENIX – A week into January, nearly a dozen people have been killed in car wrecks on Arizona highways.

“It’s been a real frightening start to the new year,” Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Col. Frank Milstead said Monday on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

Six people died in a recent accident — a head-on collision on State Route 89 near Flagstaff on Saturday evening.

One of the cars crossed a double-yellow line and smashed into the other on the road close to Cameron, Arizona.

It was one of seven fatal crashes Milstead’s department worked in a 24-hour period.

“We’ve already investigated over 540 collisions on Arizona highways (this year),” Milstead said.

His troopers also responded to a deadly accident early Sunday on Loop 202 near Arizona Avenue. One person was killed when the car he was riding in slammed into a sign post.

The driver, who authorities said was impaired, was treated at a hospital and charged with one count of second-degree murder.

But the majority of calls highway troopers have been responding — about 113 — are weather-related, Milstead said, including the Loop 202 accident.

Wet roads contributed to the slide into the pole, he said.

“So much of this has to do with the fact that people that people really are pressing the speed limit to new levels,” Milstead said.

“You can’t really get on most of these freeways now and drive even 10 (mph) over (the speed limit) without people being irritated you’re going too slow.”

He added the lack of respect for other drivers was a danger as was distracted driving.

“I always tell people driving is a little bit like dancing: everybody’s got to kind of move together, they’ve got to get along on the highway. … It’s not a competition.

“Today you may not get there first or as fast as you want, but if you take a few more minutes, you’ll probably get there alive.”

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