UPDATE 8:10 a.m. Wednesday, July 5: The wrong-way driver suspect, Darroll Wayne Roberts, 76, was booked into the Yavapai County Jail. The Black Canyon City resident is charged with DUI/vehicular homicide, the Arizona Department of Public Safety announced this morning. The victim was 50-year-old Cindy Lee Meade of Phoenix.
UPDATED 8:05 p.m. Tuesday, July 4 — A wrong-way driver heading north in the southbound lanes of I-17 near Black Canyon City Tuesday afternoon caused multiple collisions, including one with a motorcycle that killed the rider.
“Today at 2:36 p.m. troopers began to receive multiple reports of a wrong-way driver, a red SUV traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of I-17 near milepost 242,” the Arizona Department of Public Safety said in a statement. “The wrong way vehicle caused several collisions. One of those collisions involved a motorcycle and the rider has been declared deceased on scene.”
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Traffic was backed up 7 miles on I-17 southbound north of Black Canyon City for several hours, after the crash forced total closure of the interstate’s southbound lanes, according to ADOT. At about 7:40 p.m., the highway was re-opened, ADOT said, with the backup expected to take some time to clear.
Wrong-Way Driver Problem
The collisions came at a relatively busy time, as people were returning to the valley after a long holiday weekend. ADOT had reduced speeds on that stretch of I-17 for southbound lanes, all day today, in an effort to improve safety. Meanwhile, AAA had predicted this holiday weekend would be the busiest for travel in Arizona since 2007.
In June, the State Transportation Board approved funding for a wrong-way driver detection system, after Gov. Doug Ducey’s June 7 request to accelerate approval, funding and construction of a system that was in the prototype stage at ADOT. Ducey made the request after another one of several deadly wrong-way collisions on or around I-17 in Phoenix this year.
The setup will initially be installed only along I-17 from the Loop 101 down to the I-10, however.
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Alternate Route Advised
For hours, the backup extended to the Sunset Point Rest Area, due to an investigation of the crash scene.
“The driver of the wrong way vehicle is in custody and the investigation is still in its early stages,” DPS said mid-afternoon. “Delays are long in the area and the interstate is expected to be closed for several hours for investigation.”
“All traffic must exit the highway at Black Canyon City and may re-enter the roadway using the Black Canyon on-ramp,” ADOT said in a statement. “Because of the long delays at Black Canyon City, drivers should consider using alternate routes … Those trying to reach the East Valley may take State Route 260 east to State Route 87 south. Motorists headed to the West Valley may consider State Route 169 west to State Route 69 south to State Route 89 south through Wickenburg to US 60 east into Phoenix.”
This article was first published at 4:12 p.m.