A wrong-way collision that took the lives of two San Diego Police Department detectives Friday morning was the county’s third misdirection crash this week.
Caltrans estimates wrong-way crashes kill 40 Californians every year, and says that number has climbed over the last decade. The cause of the recent local crashes are still under investigation, but state officials are trying to figure out what’s behind the rising trend.
The detectives were headed southbound on Interstate 5 at around 10:20 a.m. when they were hit head-on in the far left lane along a leftward bend in the freeway. Given the curve and that both cars were traveling at freeway speeds, there likely wasn’t much time for either driver to adjust course.
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Both cars burst into flames on impact.
The detectives died at the scene. They were later identified by police as SDPD's Jamie Huntley-Park and Ryan Park. They were married.
The female wrong-way driver was also killed.
The California Highway Patrol is still piecing together the timeline of the crash, including where, how and why the wrong-way driver entered southbound lanes of I-5 driving north.
Hours before the crash, just after 4 a.m., a wrong-way driver suspected of being under the influence of alcohol drove southbound against northbound traffic on I-15 near Fallbrook and hit another car head-on.
The victim survived the crash, but suffered major injuries and had to be taken to the hospital. The 46-year-old male wrong-way driver was booked on felony DUI charges, according to the CHP.
On Tuesday, a 52-year-old woman was killed in a Carmel Valley collision after a wrong-way driver entered I-5. The CHP is still investigating the cause of that crash.
Caltrans officials blame drivers under the influence and distracted drivers taking more risks for the uptick in wrong-way crashes.
An Automobile Association of America (AAA) study released in March counted 2,008 deaths in wrong-way highway crashes between 2015 and 2018, an average of about 500 deaths per year. Between 2010 and 2014, there were 375 deaths per year.
The study also showed that 60% of wrong-way crashes involved a driver with a Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) higher than .08, the legal limit in California. Just 1.8% involved drivers with a BAC between .05 and .79, and 2.1% under .049.
Caltrans launched a pilot program in 2016 aimed at slowing the rate of wring-way crashes. The agency installed larger, digital wrong-way signs near on-ramps around the county.