Gov. Doug Ducey is coming down hard on wrong-way drivers in Arizona with a recently-signed law.
Wrong-way drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol will now face felony charges, under the new bill, which Ducey called for in his January State of the State address.
HB 2243 would automatically charge an impaired wrong-way driver on the highway with a felony.
Provisions of the legislation include:
Establishes a civil traffic offense for driving the wrong way on a controlled access highway. A person found responsible:
Is subject to a $500 civil penalty, and
Must attend and successfully complete Traffic Safety School
Creates a new aggravated DUI offense for a person who commits a regular, extreme or aggravated DUI violation while driving the wrong way on a highway
A violation is a Class 4 felony
Plus, Ducey plans to provide funding from the FY 2019 budget to add resources for an enhanced "Wrong-Way Driver Night Watch" to improve response times to wrong-way and impaired drivers.
"We wake up too frequently these days to the report of another death on our highways," said Ducey in his January address. "A wrong-way driver - and in many cases, it comes back to drugs or alcohol.
"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. Your actions are beyond foolish - they are lethal and we will not tolerate it."
According to Ducey, two out of three wrong-way crashes are caused by impaired drivers and often these drivers have blood-alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit.
A thermal camera system was installed on Interstate 17 between I-10 and Loop 101 after Ducey called on the Department of Public Safety, Arizona Department of Transportation and his Office of Highway Safety in June of 2017. The innovative pilot project that detects wrong-way vehicles entering the highway was the first in the country.
Already this year, the system has detected 12 wrong-way drivers. None of these incidents resulted in a vehicle reaching the mainline freeway or causing a crash.