What is the Punishment for an Arizona Wrong Way Driver?

What is the Punishment for an Arizona Wrong Way Drive

What is the Punishment for an Arizona Wrong Way Driver?

An Arizona driver who is found guilty of driving in the wrong direction will face felony charges including jail time. It is even possible for those victimized by the wrong way crash to sue the driver in question with a civil court proceeding that is separate from the criminal court proceeding. Let’s take a closer look at the penalties for a wrong way driving conviction in Arizona.

Arizona Penalties for Wrong Way Driving

Arizona and nearby municipalities clearly post signs along freeway exits stating the direction of traffic. These large red signs make it clear that the driver is not to enter as doing so would go against the legal and orderly flow of traffic. Furthermore, the state has additional warning signs of varying sizes along thoroughfares. The logic in posting these signs is to reduce the chances of a head-on crash, ensuing injuries and death.

Arizona’s state legislature hiked the penalties for wrong way driving offenses in 2018. The logic in increasing the penalties for such offenses is to reduce the number of fatalities stemming from these unfortunate crashes. Sadly, 25% of wrong way crashes prove deadly.

Arizona’s Revised Statute 1383.A.5 states that a driver’s first arrest for wrong way driving for a crash that did not cause an injury or a death moves up from a Class 1 DUI misdemeanor all the way to a Class 4 felony. This law makes it illegal to drive in the wrong direction on a roadway. Arizona criminal defense lawyers are quick to point out the revised law states it is illegal to drive the wrong direction on a highway. However, the revised law does not state what, exactly, constitutes a highway.

The revised law extends the parameters of the offense to encompass what the state refers to as surface streets. The alteration to the law means wrong way driving that would have been considered to be a low-level DUI resulting in a single day in jail is heightened to four months in prison.

Additional Penalties for Wrong Way Drivers

Arizona wrong way drivers who cause a crash will also be subjected to additional felony charges. These charges are particularly harsh as they are meant to be punitive against acts of negligence that caused injuries as well as death. However, the punishment also has the potential to extend well beyond criminal charges.

Those victimized in a wrong way crash are also legally empowered to sue the driver of the vehicle involved in the crash to obtain financial compensation including money for punitive damages. Every Arizona resident should be aware of the fact that the threshold to win a civil case in the state is less than that necessary to emerge victorious in a criminal case. This means a wrong way driver who is not convicted in a criminal case can easily lose his or her civil case and suffer financial ruin.

Arizona’s Battle Against Wrong Way Driving Includes Thermal Cameras

The state’s Department of Transportation uses thermal detection cameras along freeway off-ramps to pinpoint wrong way drivers and notify the Department of Public Safety that a local driver is moving against the flow of traffic. The state’s use of such cameras on I-17 represented the first-ever use of such wrong way “eyes in the sky” in the United States as a whole. The initial use of such cameras was in January of 2018 by the Loop 101 interchange and the central business district of Phoenix. ADOT is now empowered to transmit warning signals to alert drivers that they are traveling in the wrong direction.

Stay tuned. Arizona’s ongoing battle against wrong way drivers will continue to evolve in the years ahead.

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