- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Authorities said Sunday three people were seriously hurt after a driver going the wrong way crashed into another vehicle on an Arizona highway, making it the fourth such accident this month.

Two men in their early 20s drove more than three miles south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 17 late Saturday night, north of Phoenix, before colliding head-on with another vehicle, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.

DPS spokesman Bart Graves said the passenger in the wrong-way car suffered a broken leg but was talking when officers arrived. The driver was injured too but Graves did not say what his injuries were.

The 50-year-old man driving the other car also sustained broken bones. All three men had to be hospitalized but are expected to survive.

As for the cause, “we very much suspect impairment,” Graves said.

KNXV-TV reported (https://bit.ly/1jk9Pik) that the two men were in a Jeep Cherokee that struck a guardrail before striking the vehicle, described as a pickup truck. The crash was near New River, a community 35 miles north of Phoenix.

The incident comes a week after Arizona officials met in response to seven fatalities occurring in a one-week period. Directors of the state Department of Public Safety, Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety held a meeting May 18 to review details from a fatal wrong-way crash that happened earlier in the day.

DPS said Patricia Murphy, 68, drove her pickup truck the wrong-way on Loop 202 in Gilbert and collided with another vehicle, killing Michael Ruquet, 25, and Ashley Adea, 20. Murphy’s 9-year-old grandson was also injured. According to court documents, preliminary tests showed Murphy had a blood-alcohol limit more than twice the legal limit and had consumed opiates.

Two days earlier, three people from Indonesia died in a wrong-way accident on I-17 about 30 miles north of Phoenix. They were in a minivan struck by a wrong-way driver. Three passengers, including a 9-year-old child, also suffered serious injuries. Authorities believe the wrong-way driver, a Phoenix man in his 60s, was impaired.

Brandon Mendoza, an off-duty Mesa police officer, died May 12 when his car was struck by a wrong-way driver, who was killed as well.

ADOT Director John Halikowski has said the agency is looking at practices elsewhere in the country to identify any that should be adopted in Arizona.

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