A recent analysis of federal highway data labeled I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff the fourth deadliest highway in America. But while the interstate may be treacherous in stretches, highway officials lay the blame squarely on drivers.
“Folks, it’s not about the highway,” said John Halikowski, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, said in a statement last week. “I-17 is a safe highway, designed to meet exacting safety standards. But as with any highway, safety is dependent upon smart driving.”
Forty percent of accidents on the crash-prone stretch of freeway near Black Canyon City are caused by drivers going too fast for the conditions, ADOT found. Statewide, speeding is the No. 1 cause of crashes, and 31 percent of motor vehicle deaths in 2016 involved speeding.
“Too many drivers are speeding,” Halikowski said.
Safety features recently added to the mountainous stretch:
- Six “speed feedback” signs alert drivers who’re going too fast.
- Reflective pavement markers delineate lanes more clearly.
- Overhead message boards provide safety information.
- Speed limits lowered by 10 mph on holiday weekends.
“There are no current plans to permanently change I-17 speed limits,” the agency said in a statement to In&Out Magazine. But speed limits are maximums and “drivers are expected to travel slower if conditions dictate.”
“Without a doubt, the number of crash fatalities would be dramatically reduced if more drivers would slow down and obey speed limits,” said Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Plans are in place to add additional lanes between Anthem and Black Canyon City by 2022.
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Check Road Conditions Before You Go
Visit ADOT’s Traveler Information Center at az511.gov or call 511 for the latest highway conditions around the state.ADOT’s Twitter feed Check @ArizonaDOT for updates (4 a.m. to midnight) directly from ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center.