Wrong-way drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol—an all-too-frequent cause of deaths on I-17 and other Arizona freeways—will automatically face felony charges under a new state law.
Two out of three wrong-way crashes are caused by impaired drivers, the governor’s office said in a statement today. The bill, signed by Governor Doug Ducey today, is part of a broader effort to curb the problem, particularly on I-17 in Phoenix.
“You’d think it was obvious by now, but to anyone out there who hasn’t gotten the memo: Booze, drugs and driving don’t mix,” Ducey said in January, when he called for the legislation. “Your actions are beyond foolish—they are lethal. And we will not tolerate it.”
The new bill, HB 2243, will automatically charge an impaired wrong-way driver on the highway with a felony. In addition, the proposed FY 2019 budget provides funding to add resources for an enhanced Wrong-Way Driver Night Watch to improve response times to wrong-way and impaired drivers, the statement said.
Last June, Ducey called on state agencies to take other actions to help prevent wrong-way driving. One result: the installation of a thermal camera system on Interstate 17 between I-10 and Loop 101 that detects wrong-way vehicles entering the highway. The pilot project was the first in country, the governor’s office says. So far this year, the system has detected 12 wrong-way drivers. None of these incidents resulted in a vehicle reaching the primary freeway or causing a crash.