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Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober

(Facebook Photo/Arizona Department of Public Safety)

PHOENIX — After at least six people drove the wrong way on Arizona freeways in less than a week, the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety says society has to become “outraged” over impaired driving before such incidents will stop.

“I hear all this conversation all over about what do we do with the roadways, and how do we stop this from happening, like somehow this is a mystery,” Col. Frank Milstead told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show.

“And it’s not a mystery — we can solve this by keeping impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel.”

Milstead said close to 80% of wrong-way drivers are drunk or high.

“(Drunk driving) has to become socially unacceptable, that people are shunned for being impaired and getting in the car,” he said.

Milstead said that wrong-way incidents in the state are “not an anomaly” compared to the rest of the nation, as populations grow and access to controlled substances has increased.

He said he has been floating the idea of implementing a system of flashing lights to alert drivers to vehicles going the wrong way on freeways.

“I think it’s really simple, if we were just to put like a yellow and blue light and train just a little LED flashing light on a signpost, on overpasses, where we could light up a 10-mile stretch of road literally instantly,” Milstead said.

“And a solid blue light would mean, let’s say, pull over to the right and stop or exit the roadway. If it’s flashing blue, just know that there’s something going on ahead, pay attention, and if it’s blue and yellow, maybe it’s weather, a storm, debris in the roadway.”

The Arizona Department of Transportation has been testing an early warning program with 90 thermal imaging cameras that detect drivers entering freeways on off-ramps.

The agency expects to complete an evaluation of that pilot program in a few months.

Milstead said while detection systems may help save lives, he still believes it’s up to individuals to drive sober.

“There’s all kinds of people that don’t think it’s going to happen to them, but they still buy lottery tickets and that’s one chance in 292 million,” he said.

“I can tell you, you’ve got one chance in about 2,000 about getting in a crash or wrecking your car.”

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