August 16th ─ 4 people are seriously injured after a wrong-way driver careened head-on with another vehicle on a rural stint of Interstate 17 (I-17) in north-central Arizona early Tuesday morning, according to the state Department of Public Safety. The incident occurred around 2:39 a.m. when Department of Public Safety officials received reports of a wrong-way driver on the southbound lanes of I-17 at milepost 250 near the Sunset Point Rest Area north of Black Canyon City, which is 45 miles north of Phoenix. Approximately 11 minutes later DPS received reports that a crash had ensued.
Daisy Mountain Fire Department was the first to arrive on scene to find 2 vehicles fully engulfed by flames. The victim's vehicle, a Toyota RAV4, was carrying 3 occupants, while the wrong-way driver was the sole occupant of his Pontiac sedan. The southbound I-17 was closed for 3 hours following the collision while cleaning crews and investigators worked the scene. It reopened just before 6:30 a.m., according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Bystanders successfully extricated the wounded from the 2 vehicles prior to Daisy Mountain Fire Department’s arrival, 2 individuals were transported by ambulance while the other 2 were transported by helicopter to local hospitals in critical condition. A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, Raul Garcia, said the cause of the wreck is under investigation to determine where the wrong-way vehicle entered the I-17, and how the collision was caused be it a simple mistake or impairment. The DPS have not factored out impairment considering that most wrong-way crashes are caused by from the use of drugs or alcohol. "We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. This is a social issue that has to be attacked by all of us," Garcia said. Wrong-way crashes have killed at least 8 people in Arizona this year alone with most stemming from a particular area, the Phoenix Loop 101. Tuesday's crash occurred in a remote area with few alternative routes, and the DPS wants to know exactly how long the driver was traveling the wrong way. Within metro Phoenix, the State is advancing with a pilot program that uses thermal camera technology and electronic signs to detect wrong-way drivers and provide an early warning system to other drivers and alerts to troopers to wrong-way drivers’ exact location. Gov. Doug Ducey demanded state agencies accelerate the camera project after 3 fatal wrong-way collisions occurred in a span of about 2 weeks within metro Phoenix.
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