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Police and emergency crews respond to a head-on collision north of Phoenix that killed three people and critically injured four early Friday morning. (KTAR photo/Jim Cross)

PHOENIX -- Five people have died in two separate crashes caused by wrong way drivers this week in the Phoenix area.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety says that so-called "wrong way" drivers have become common in Arizona.

"Although they may not lead up to serious injury or death, the wrong way drivers are occurring on almost a daily basis," said DPS Public Information Officer Raul Garcia.

He says most of the incidents happen either late at night, or in the early morning, before sunrise.

Garcia said that you have less of a chance of being a victim of a wrong way driver if you drive in the right hand lane of the road. "The HOV lane, the left lane or passing lane is usually the lane that we see these wrong way drivers traveling," he said.

"That's whether it's a suicidal subject, a DUI, a brain illness, or fatigued driver, we're usually seeing him traveling on that left side."

Garcia offered some other straightforward tips for avoiding wrong way drivers. Pay close attention to your driving, he said, and limit distractions both inside and outside of your vehicle. And, if possible, don't drive late at night or in the pre-dawn hours.

In a head-on collision, Garcia said that cars are usually approaching one another at a speed of about 250 feet per second. But there are things that you may be able to do to avoid a collision.

"Brake, and steer evasively. Decrease your speed, if there is time, to avoid that impact speed," Garcia said.

Bob McClay, Reporter

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