PHOENIX - Wrong-way drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol will now face felony charges, under a law signed by Governor Doug Ducey today.
The bill, which Governor Ducey called for in his January State of the State address, is part of an aggressive effort by Arizona to curb wrong-way driving. HB 2243 would 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.
“We wake up too frequently these days to the report of another death on our highways. A wrong-way driver – and in many cases, it comes back to drugs or alcohol,” Governor Ducey said in his January address. “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.”
Curbing wrong-way driving and improving public safety are a major focus for Governor 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.
In June 2017, Governor Ducey called on the Department of Public Safety, the Arizona Department of Transportation and his Office of Highway Safety to immediately take action to prevent wrong-way driving. This resulted in 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 innovative Arizona pilot project was the first in 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.
Provisions of the legislation include-
1. Establishes a civil traffic offense for driving the wrong way on a controlled access highway. A person found responsible:
a. Is subject to a $500 civil penalty, and
b. Must attend and successfully complete Traffic Safety School.
2. 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. A violation is a Class 4 felony.