A 31 year old man has become the first traffic fatality on the new section of freeway that opened in late December, just a couple of weeks ago. DPS reports that 31-year-old Josafath Rubio-Hernandez died while driving the wrong way on the freeway near Elliot Road and collided head-on with a semi-truck.
Police said they are still investigating if the driver was impaired. Most wrong-way drivers involved in fatal collisions are impaired (thought to be around 75%)
“The $1.7 billion freeway will connect the East and West Valley by bypassing downtown Phoenix on a new route through Ahwatukee Foothills and Laveen” (for drivers of cars, anyway); It’s also the last segment of Loop 202 to be built. The connection is thought to bring a great deal of new economic development. See Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway is now open, after decades of debate
By the way, the driver who died wasn’t the first wrong way driver on the new freeway, an unnamed 17 y.o. male has the honor of being the first to be arrested, around 9am December 26, 2019; by the way driving the wrong way while intoxicated is besides being just illegal is a criminal felony:
DPS: New Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway Sees Its First Wrong-Way Driver By KJZZ News
Published: Friday, December 27, 2019 – 12:08pm
Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers stopped a wrong-way driver on the new South Mountain Freeway on Thursday morning — the first since the freeway opened less than a week ago. Bart Graves, a spokesperson for DPS, says two vehicles swerved out of the way and one hit the median wall… “There were no reported injuries. Impairment is believed to be a factor. Driver of this wrong way vehicle will be a 17-year-old male,” he said… The teen was arrested. (also azcentral)
Wrong way drivers causing fatal collisions on freeways has been a particularly hot topic in the Phoenix metro area since a spate of fatal head-ons in 2014 resulted in seven dead in one week in three separate incidents.
Various technological solutions are in the works, or implemented in some areas; though it seems like more DUI enforcement is indicated. Wrong way driving is a predominantly impaired driver problem, and that problem doesn’t only exist on freeway, it exists on every road.
LAVEEN, Ariz. – The Department of Public Safety says one person has died following a wrong-way crash on the new South Mountain Freeway near Laveen… 911 calls came into the DPS office before 3:00 a.m. of a driver traveling north in the southbound lanes of State Route 202 near Ray Road… The wrong-way driver was killed in the crash. He was identifies as 31-year-old Josafath Rubio-Hernandez. No other injuries were reported. Investigators have not ruled out impairment as a factor in the crash.
… In a statement about the crash on the new highway, the Arizona Department of Transportation said, “Wrong-way detection is planned for the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway, to be completed with the addition of intelligent transportation system technology that includes installing.”
70% of Arizona wrong-way drivers were sober at time of incident
As mentioned in the comment below — it’s important to draw a distinction between wrong-way drivers who are drunk and those that are not drunk (well, let’s just say not impaired).
Impairment leads to much higher fatality rates; Not-impaired drivers who end up going the wrong way for whatever other reason also presumably have a far better ability to recover from the error without ending up in a crash.
… In nearly 70% of the cases where they had contact with the wrong-way drivers, those drivers turned out to be sober… According to our analysis, the impaired drivers were much more likely to crash than the sober ones. In cases that resulted in crashes, more than 60% of the drivers were impaired by drugs or alcohol.