Last week, according to news reports, a man was allegedly driving the wrong way on Interstate 17 north of Phoenix. There was a crash involving the vehicle. While there were no reported injuries, the driver was arrested and charged with aggravated DUI. Since there was no indication that the driver had no license, was traveling with a passenger under the age of 15, was required to have an ignition interlock device in his car or was previously convicted of DUI (within the prior 84 months), you may wonder why the charge was aggravated DUI. After all, the law relating to driving under the influence has traditionally earmarked those particular violations for inclusion under the aggravated DUI statute, A.R.S. 28-1383.
The answer is that this year the legislature passed, and Governor Ducey signed into law, a new provision (A.R.S. 28-1383A5) which specifically addresses driving the wrong way on a road while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The charge is a class 4 felony (unlike a simple DUI) and carries stiff penalties. Why, you might also ask, did the legislature choose that particular traffic violation to concentrate on? In other words, with severe DUI penalties already in place in Arizona, why concentrate on wrong way drivers, instead of, for example, people who run stop signs or red lights? The answer is that last year, in 2017, there were about 1,700 wrong way drivers reported in Arizona.
In addition, according to the Federal Highway Administration, between 300 and 400 people are killed each year as a direct result of wrong way driving. While this represents only about 1% of the total nationwide traffic fatality count, wrong way crashes tend to be head-on collisions at high speeds and are relatively more severe than many other types of auto accidents.
If convicted of wrong way DUI under the new law, you can expect to be fined, spend some time in jail, attend traffic school, have your license suspended, and, perhaps equally as important, have a record as a convicted felon.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004