DPS director says wrong-way crashes are social issue

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DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead says wrong-way crashes are a societal issue. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead says wrong-way crashes are a societal issue. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Arizona DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arizona DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
DPS said just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, an unidentified wrong-way driver hit and killed 54-year-old Young Lee. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) DPS said just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, an unidentified wrong-way driver hit and killed 54-year-old Young Lee. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

After three fatalities due to wrong-way crashes in the past week, Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, calls this a societal issue.

Though we don't know the cause of the most recent wrong-way crash Tuesday night, Milstead said many of these cases involve drivers who are impaired.

"The roads haven't changed, but people's behavior has changed," Milstead said.

DPS said just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, an unidentified wrong-way driver hit and killed 54-year-old Young Lee. Lee owned Don's Fine Cigars on Central Avenue and Camelback Road.

[RELATED: DPS: 2 people dead after wrong-way crash at the Mini-Stack]

Milstead said the wrong-way driver came from Sky Harbor and was having trouble there, too.

"He drove through one of the arms that keep people from going a certain way," Milstead said. "He drove through that arm, and there was someone in a crosswalk he came very close to striking, as well."

[RELATED: Witness sees wrong-way driver before fatal crash]

Milstead said he then drove westbound in the eastbound I-10 lanes, and went the wrong way on the 51 HOV ramp before crashing. He was also killed.

"Whether it's impairment, it's a medical issue or a psychological issue, we don't know the answer," Milstead said.

Milstead said spike strips can't put up with wear and tear and might not stop cars immediately. But ADOT plans to install an early detection system for the I-17 in the fall.

[RELATED: Survivor haunted by wrong-way crash]

"It detects you at the top of the ramp going the wrong way, and I think there are flashing lights, and if you don't self-correct, it will detect you at the bottom of the ramp again with more flashing lights," Milstead said. "There's been discussion about having a camera that takes a picture of the driver and license plate going in the wrong direction."

We asked ADOT for more details about this program, but they say they will have more information in the coming weeks. 

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Wrong-way Drivers]

In the meantime, Milstead encourages drivers to be vigilant.

"At night, drive on the right-hand side of the roadway. Stay out of the carpool lane and the high-speed lane after hours if you can," he said. "It's just safer on the other side of the road."

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

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Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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