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Updated May 17, 2014 - 9:03 am

DPS: Wrong-way drivers common in Arizona

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.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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