SALT LAKE CITY — Trooper Ricky Jensen was dispatched on reports of a wrong-way driver traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of I-215 West around 1 a.m. Wednesday.
“In those moments, there's a lot of thoughts that are going through your head," he said. "But I mean, ultimately, the part our job our jobs as law enforcement and state troopers specifically in this situation, we've got to protect the public.”
Jensen got ahead of the wrong-way vehicle and intercepted it with his own vehicle, the collision sending the driver, a man in his 70s, into a pond.
“I immediately just jumped out of my vehicle and ran down and waded out into the water to make sure he was okay and spoke with him until medical arrived," he said. "With these elderly situations, you know, just breaks my heart.”
There have been 80 wrong way drivers caught by troopers in the first five months of 2022, according to Utah Highway Patrol.
Many these drivers aren’t seeing the wrong way signs on highway ramps, so UDOT is now working on adding more deterrents onto the highway lanes themselves, said John Gleason, Public Relations Director.
“Sometimes people that are impaired will tend to focus on the road," he said. "They'll look down, and so there's a thought that if you can put down closer to the to the pavement, the wrong way sign or signage, speaking to those people that are that are kind of looking straight at the road, or striping, arrows that point the opposite direction.”
Many of the wrong way drivers on highways are older adults who are confused, said Gleason.
“It's a hard conversation," he said. "It's one that we always have to kind of keep an eye on our loved ones.”
The majority of wrong-way drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.
“Just please, please think about it," said Jensen. "Please think about your loved ones, other people's loved ones.