Few things are scarier on the road – for good reason – than seeing a driver come at you on your side of the road. Wrong-way drivers cause collisions that take a particularly horrific toll, and Arizona legislators are concerned that there are too many of them in the state. Which is why they’re proposing new laws to stop this lethal practice.

According to news reports the Governor, Doug Ducey, has recommended adding more troopers and a special patrol to focus on wrong-way drivers. A bill is also in the legislature which would make wrong-way driving an automatic felony.  The measure, House Bill 2243, would mandate a fine and traffic classes for anyone caught driving in the wrong direction.

Another legislator has proposed installing spikes on certain well-traveled roadways which shred the tires of wrong-way drivers – such spikes are used in rental car lots to keep people from stealing vehicles. But such spikes would be dangerous to ambulances and other assistance vehicles which sometimes need to drive against traffic to reach a collision scene.

What Causes Wrong Way Driving?

The problem with these measures is they don’t get at the cause of wrong-way driving, which is usually impairment. If you see a wrong-way driver, the chances are good that he or she is drunk. And since drunk drivers are not aware that they’re driving in the wrong direction, they’re not going to be deterred by fines and felony charges.

Preventing drunk driving, therefore, is a wiser cause of action. Enforcing strictly the state’s ignition interlock laws will keep many DUI offenders from driving drunk. Patrols should be on the lookout for drunk drivers before they turn into wrong-way drivers.

Older drivers are also over-represented among wrong-way drivers. Again, felony punishments will be less effective than better screening of older drivers in the first place.

It’s good that Arizona lawmakers are talking about ways to keep people safe on the road. But they should focus on the cause of the crime, because by the time it occurs, it’s often too late to prevent a crash.

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