DPS: 'Severely impaired' wrong-way driver punched 2 troopers, spit on 3rdPosted: Updated:
Court paperwork released Friday morning runs down a litany of felony and misdemeanor charges facing the "severely impaired" woman who allegedly punched two Department of Public Safety troopers and spit on a third after she was arrested for driving about 17 miles the wrong way on three freeways from Phoenix to Tempe.
A judge set a secured appearance bond of $3,500 for Megan Melanson, 25, who was arrested after early Thursday morning.
[RAW VIDEO: Megan Melanson's initial court appearance]
It all started at about 2:30 a.m. Thursday with a 911 call reporting a wrong-way driver heading south in the northbound lanes of State Route 51 just south of Camelback Road.
Troopers tried to stop that driver, later identified as Melanson, as she headed east in the westbound lanes of U.S. 60 near Mill Avenue.
While the Arizona Department of Transportation used its digital freeway signs to warn early morning commuters what was ahead, a DPS trooper performed a traffic break in the westbound lanes of U.S. 60 near Priest Drive.
During a traffic break, a law enforcement vehicle with its emergency lights activated zigzags across all lanes of traffic while slowing down to keep drivers out of harm's way.
Troopers deployed Stop Sticks in an effort to stop Melanson. Although the Phoenix resident hit them and her left rear tire deflated, she kept going.
[CELL PHONE VIDEO: DPS traffic break]
Responding troopers were able to stop and arrest Melanson on U.S. 60 near Dobson Road not far from Mesa Community College, which is about 17 miles from her first-reported location.
"Investigation revealed the driver was severely impaired," according to DPS.
Not only did troopers smell alcohol on her breath, she admitted "she should not have been driving and was drunk," according to the probable cause for arrest statement filed with the court.
While in custody, she also told troopers on the scene there was marijuana in her vehicle. The troopers searched her car and found the drugs, as well as other drug paraphernalia.
[SLIDESHOW: From the scene]
Troopers arrested Melanson, but she did not go quietly, according to court paperwork.
Melanson reportedly became combative while she was being processed.
Her court paperwork states that she "struck a trooper in the chest with a closed fist." She then punched another trooper who tried to restrain her, hitting him in the chin.
The court paperwork goes on to describe Melanson as uncooperative, saying she also refused to comply with a court-ordered blood draw.
"She stated she was going to resist while the trooper conducted the blood draw," the probable cause statement reads. "She was placed into a strap in [the] chair and continued moving to avoid the blood draw."
But she didn't just struggle. According to the arresting officers, she "spit onto the center of the face" of the trooper tasked with drawing her blood.
Investigators have not released any other information about Melanson, including if she has a history of DUI.
Although no injuries were reported, two DPS vehicles were damaged in the course of the operation to stop the wrong-way driver.
"One was damaged by hitting the wall when the trooper attempted to hit the vehicle, and another vehicle was damaged crossing the gore area to deploy spikes," a DPS spokesman said.
Melanson was booked on suspicion of aggravated assault, DUI, criminal damage, endangerment and resisting arrest.
Wrong-way drivers an ongoing problem
According to numbers from DPS, Arizona saw an average of two wrong-way serious or deadly crashes every month last year.
That's just incidents that end in crashes; not all of them do. Troopers responded to more than 1,600 reports of wrong-way drivers in 2016.
While not every wrong-way driver call reveals an actual wrong-way driver, troopers always respond immediately and treat each call very seriously.
"In most instances, these people reorient themselves and exit the highway," said Raul Garcia, a public information officer for DPS.
It's not a new problem.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Wrong-way drivers]
A recent study shows that from 2004-2014, there were 245 wrong-way crashes in Arizona, resulting in 91 fatalities.
DPS would like to remind motorists to avoid distractions while driving so that you can better respond, or take evasive action if you encounter a hazard such as a wrong-way driver. Have a plan in mind to avoid a wrong-way vehicle so that if you encounter one, you will not waste a moment to take emergency evasive action that could save your life.
“Increase your chances of avoiding a wrong-way collision by staying right, staying aware and reporting wrong-way drivers immediately,” DPS Capt. Damon Cecil while talking about the statistics over the summer.
The Arizona Department of Transportation has installed hundreds of oversized warning signs at ramps statewide.
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