PHOENIX – As the Arizona Department of Transportation seeks to identify and fund projects that will increase capacity on Interstate 17 north of Phoenix, drivers need to do their part by avoiding the poor decisions and inattention behind so many of the crashes that result in closures and backups – and worse, injuries and fatalities.
The steep, winding stretch of I-17 between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point is one of ADOT’s priorities for improvements.
But ADOT Director John Halikowski says no widening project or highway safety measure can be as effective as drivers obeying speed limits, avoiding distractions and driving with patience. A recent analysis found that the driver violation cited in more than 40 percent of I-17 crashes in the Black Canyon City area was “speed too fast for conditions.”
“We drive these highways too and care deeply not only about the time motorists lose in delays but the toll in injuries and lives lost due to speeding and driver inattention,” Halikowski said. “We’re committed to improving traffic flow and enhancing safety on I-17 and won’t stop until we get this done. But we can’t ignore driver behavior. We can all get home sooner and safely if we work together to avoid crashes.”
A recent safety message on ADOT’s overhead highway sign network sums up this approach: Control yourself, control your vehicle, save lives.
“Always drive defensively,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “Being constantly aware of your surroundings and the actions of other motorists is especially important in this stretch of I-17, which can see heavy traffic and demands a driver’s complete attention."
Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said everyone in a vehicle should promote safe driving.
“Passengers, be a good co-pilot, don’t allow your driver to disregard our traffic laws and drive distracted,” Milstead said. “Encourage them to focus on safe, unselfish driving. Otherwise, they may unexpectedly meet one of our troopers during a traffic stop or collision investigation.”
ADOT will launch an I-17 safety project in 2017 focused on the area between New River Road and Sunset Point Rest Area. The project will add several electronic “speed feedback” signs with digital displays that show drivers how fast they are traveling compared to the speed limit. New signs alerting drivers to highway curves will be installed, along with four overhead message signs to inform drivers of traffic conditions.
"I-17 is vital for passenger and commercial traffic between Phoenix and northern Arizona communities," Halikowski said. "We’re determined to identify options to increase capacity in that stretch of I-17 while also working with DPS, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and other agencies to emphasize what drivers can do to improve safety."