Wrong-Way Drivers in Phoenix on the Rise

Despite best efforts, wrong-way drivers have become an increasing problem in Phoenix, Arizona. As of August 2019, there were 1,088 wrong-way driver incidents, which was already 100 more than during the same time period in 2018. Of those incidents, 16 were fatal. Often times, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers are forced to put themselves and their patrol vehicles in harm’s way by deliberately driving in front of the wrong-way vehicle to stop the driver.

Common Causes

  • Drunk/Impaired Driving
  • Failure to Obey Traffic Signs
  • Drowsy Driving

According to the ADOT, most wrong-way accidents occur between on the weekends (Friday-Sunday) between 12 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Impairment is often a strong factor in these incidents. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and their November 2015 report, which compiled wrong‐way crash data from 2004 through 2014, approximately 65 percent of the wrong‐way drivers in the Arizona crashes were documented as impaired.



To combat the increasing statistics, ADOT began to roll out efforts in 2014 to decrease the number of wrong-way crashes. Hundreds of new signs have been erected at various highway exit ramps, including larger “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs. Closer to the highway, two large arrows with light reflectors signaling the direction of travel were also added. New highway lane-line reflectors have been installed to glow white toward right-way drivers and glow red to wrong-way drivers.

Thermal Cameras

In September 2017 ADOT began a thermal-camera project along a 15 mile stretch of Interstate 17 to detect wrong-way vehicles and alert both other drivers and law enforcement. According to ADOT, “The system will take a three-phase approach when a wrong-way vehicle is detected: alerting wrong-way drivers so they can self-correct, warning right-way drivers and notifying law enforcement.”

ADOT Mobile App

In November of 2017, ADOT rolled out a mobile app which allows residents to stay current on wrong-way divers and other traffic issues on Arizona roadways. The app is linked to the thermal cameras on Interstate 17 and will immediately send an alert to the app when a wrong-way driver is detected. The state hopes that this sort of warning system can help drivers get out of the path of a wrong-way driver.


As much as the state of Arizona has stepped up the prevention and detection of wrong-way drivers, signs and cameras can only do so much. A popular belief is that what is really needed is a shift in societal attitudes towards drinking and driving.  As ADOT warns, this new detection system can help reduce the risk, but it can’t prevent wrong-way driving. Until impaired driving is significantly lessened, wrong-way driving will continue to occur.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident due to a wrong-way driver, contact Kamper & Estrada, PLLC. Our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you receive fair compensation for your injuries.


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