DPS targets bad drivers

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Every day millions of Arizonans head out on the highway, sharing the road with a dangerous mix of drivers. Increasing numbers of commercial vehicles, giant semis that can wreak havoc in a crash, and aggressive drivers crowd our freeways.

It was just this past Thursday when a pickup truck lost control on Interstate 10 in Chandler and rolled, setting off a deadly chain reaction crash that ultimately involved a total of nine vehicles, including three commercial trucks.

That part of the highway was shut down for six hours during the morning commute.

3TV rode along with a DPS officer who is part of a division of 150 statewide who specifically target these commercial haulers as well as aggressive drivers -- those who speed, tailgate, cut off other drivers and needlessly put others' lives on the line.

Officer DJ Felan has been with the DPS for seven years, the last 18 months with this division. He makes an average of ten to fifteen stops per day, mostly passenger vehicles whose drivers are maneuvering dangerously around giant semis.

Officer Felan and fellow Officer Austin Eckhardt pulled over a commercial vehicle they saw zip by with windows that were too dark. When asked about it, the driver, Edwin Palencia, said he'd bought the truck like that and that he would fix it. It was obvious he was eager to finish the inspection and be on his way to Atlanta.

This is just one of about 46,000 commercial vehicle inspections this DPS division conducts each year.

These officers spend hours on the road every day and have seen it all. Officer Felan said distracted drivers, those on cell phones, eating, putting on makeup, even watching movies, are the most dangerous of all.

He said he'd like to see Arizona join the other states that have passed laws banning cell phone use while driving.