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The best defense against wrong-way drivers

LISTEN: DPS Officer Carrick Cook on wrong-way crashes

Seven people were killed by wrong-way drivers on Valley freeways in the past week.

DPS Officer Carrick Cook said three accidents in one week is an “anomaly,” but there are numerous wrong-way drivers throughout the year here.

His advice: Keep spreading the word about impaired driving. By now, it’s pretty obvious how dangerous impaired driving is.

The first wrong way accident of the week killed off-duty Mesa Police Officer Brandon Mendoza. The driver had a blood-alcohol content level more than three times the legal limit. Impairment hasn’t been ruled out as a factor in the two other accidents either.

Here is some more advice: Cut down on the distractions while driving. These three accidents all happened in the early morning hours when there are fewer cars on the road. Sometimes, drivers (me included) take more liberties behind the wheel at this time of day because there are fewer cars to worry about. If we can learn anything from these accidents it should be that we should be alert drivers at all times. This means putting the phone down while behind the wheel.

Cook suggested traveling in the middle lanes while traveling late at night or early in the morning. Wrong-way drivers tend to use either the left-most or right-most lanes. Staying in the middle could help avoid them and it also gives you more options if you do see a wrong-way driver in your lane.

Another bit of advice: Notice where other cars on the road are. I’ve gotten into a habit of doing this. A couple of weeks ago, I was traveling north on the 51 when I noticed a broken-down car in the HOV lane that I was traveling in. Luckily, I had just checked to see if there were any cars next to me or in my blind spot. Since there wasn’t, I knew I could easily slide into the next lane without causing an accident. Also, since I was paying attention at that moment, I didn’t have to slam on my breaks to avoid the broken-down vehicle. Had I been texting, I may very well have hit that car.

By no means am I suggesting those killed by wrong-way drivers are at fault. Clearly, the wrong-way driver is and hopefully they will all spend years in prison, impaired or not.

Paying attention gives you the best fighting chance because you never know when something might happen. Roadways and drivers are both unpredictable. Control what you can. Other people will always drive distracted. You don’t have to.

I’ve noticed how much more alert I am as a driver since I stopped texting behind the wheel. I stopped because I didn’t want to be one that swerves into your lane to hit you. I stopped because I was taking my eyes off the road for too long while trying to read and responds to texts. Those few seconds could someday save my life.

Maybe they already have.