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Rash of wrong-way crashes has Utah Highway Patrol urging caution, advice for drivers

Posted at 6:16 PM, Mar 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 13:17:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Two separate wrong-way crashes have claimed the lives of three people in Utah this weekend.

Saturday morning around 5 a.m., Utah Highway Patrol officials say they received a call of a white Ford Focus traveling south in the northbound lanes on I-15.

Two minutes later, the driver crashed head-on into a blue FJ Cruiser that was heading northbound. The drivers of both cars were pronounced dead on scene.

Late Saturday night, Unified Police Department officials say a 29-year-old West Valley City man was driving south in the northbound lanes on Mountain View Corridor near about 6800 South. They say that man was driving with his headlights off when he hit an oncoming vehicle and was killed.

And earlier that same evening, a Dodge Journey going from U.S. Highway 6 to I-15 went into the oncoming lanes and collided with a semi-truck, causing critical injuries to the passenger in the SUV.

Rachel Vigil tells FOX 13 News that her heart sinks every time she hears about someone dying in a wrong-way crash.

Her sister, Angelica Dhondup, known as "Jelly," died in August of last year after she was hit by a wrong-way driver on I-15, just hours after her wedding.

"The accident had taken place about an hour and a half right after her reception," said Vigil.

It's a day that doesn't stray too far from Vigil's mind.

She says she even drove by where her sister was killed on Saturday, which wasn't far from where Saturday morning's accident took place.

"It just kind of hit me hard yesterday because there was another accident in the same spot, you know, sirens and lights everywhere, and it kind of just took me back to that day," said Vigil.

WATCH: Family, friends grieve those killed on Utah highways

This all comes after Utah Highway Patrol says there were more than 30 wrong-way crashes in just the first two months of this year, including three deaths.

"I don't know what's causing the epidemic that we have with wrong-ways right now, but we have had several in the last couple of months," said UHP Trooper Andy Battenfield.

It's something Battenfield says isn't easy to deal with.

"It is hard, you know, and what makes it even more difficult sometimes is that it's hard to find relatives," he said.

Battenfield says the Utah Department of Transportation does a good job of putting up a lot of signage to notify drivers they might be getting on the wrong ramp going the wrong way.

He offered up some advice to drivers who may come in contact with someone going the wrong way.

"Following distance is a big part of that," Battenfield said. "If you're scanning 12 or 15 seconds ahead, maybe that gives you time to react to that wrong-way vehicle if you can see those headlights coming towards you. Distance and time are your best friends."

Vigil says the impact of this kind of traumatic incident is still felt months later.

"Just being her sister... it's taken a toll on my daily life and her husband," she said. "He's now raising three young children on his own."

Battenfield also urges drivers to put their phones down or away so they can pay proper attention the road.

With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, he is asking drivers to take an Uber, Lyft or have a designated driver if they are impaired.