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CHP seeing an increase in wrong-way drivers

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Posted at 4:46 PM, Mar 16, 2022

There’s been an increase in wrong-way drivers on California roads.

According to the California Highway Patrol, in 2014, there were 98 car crashes with injuries caused by wrong-way drivers. And each year, they've gone up.

This preliminary data from CHP shows that last year that number nearly doubled by 2021 with 182 injury car crashes caused by wrong-way drivers.

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Source: California Highway Patrol

Over the last few weeks, there have been at least five wrong-way drivers reported on local roads.

One Lompoc resident captured one of those instances on her dashcam video on Friday, March 4, just before 9 p.m.

She was traveling on Highway 135 past Union Valley Parkway in Orcutt.

Wrong-way driver video courtesy Carmen Earle

You can see one car swerve out of the way of a wrong-way driver followed by another driver, Carmen Earle, who missed a head-on crash as well.

“I think I was on the phone with my mom at the time and I saw the headlights and swerved very last minute and looking back at the video, it was very last minute,” Earle told KSBY.

Minutes later, that wrong-way driver was killed after hitting a Prius head-on.

Earle found out about it when she got home to Lompoc still thinking of her own near head-on crash with the same driver.

“It was kind of jolting for me,” Earle said. “It wasn't just a minor alteration, a minor correction. It was a full-on full swerve of my vehicle to avoid that car.”

In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 13, a Central Coast resident coming back from the Chumash Casino captured video of another wrong-way driver.

Wrong-way driver video courtesy Roxy Castillo Anaya

“We were all like panicking because there were cars and trucks coming from the other side,” said Roxy Castillo Anaya. “We immediately just turned on the emergency lights and started flashing to drivers to alert them of the wrong side driver.”

The driver went the wrong way past law enforcement.

That driver, an Oxnard man, ended up turning around on the highway and was then arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

“Statistically, 48 percent of wrong-way driver collisions actually typically involve a driver that is typically under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” said Officer Miguel Alvarez, CHP San Luis Obispo Public Information Officer.

In addition, the last four wrong-way drivers that KSBY reported were on the road at night.

“Wrong-way driver crashes typically occur 57% of the time over the weekend and then 48% of wrong-way driver crashes occur between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.,” Officer Alvarez added.

CHP says wrong-way drivers account for 1% of deadly car crashes in the State of California.

Earle says being aware of her surroundings and free of distractions allowed her to avoid a crash herself.

“That split second that you're not paying attention could mean that you swerve a little too late and I was just so thankful that my eyes were on the road,” Earle said.

The CHP says there isn’t a lane that is necessarily safer when driving on the highway, rather the safest thing to do is to be aware of your surroundings.

CHP says they do not pursue wrong-way drivers on the highway. If you see a wrong-way driver, call 911.