Public help welcomed, if done correctly, in stopping impaired drivers
Twice in the span of three days, drivers alerted law enforcement of impaired drivers and followed the vehicles until officers arrived on scene.
The first took place last Wednesday on the Glenn Highway; a car driven by 49-year-old Laura Phillips was driving erratically from Anchorage to Wasilla. Multiple calls were placed to 911 after other drivers noticed the car swerving back and forth on the highway. Just outside of Wasilla, the car was boxed in by four other vehicles. Concerned drivers stopped the car to get the driver off the road. She had a BAC three times the legal limit.
"I'm glad that the incident ended safely," Alaska State Trooper Andrew Gorn said. "There was clearly a dangerous driver on the roadway and it was resolved in a safe manner."
The second incident happened on Friday, just after midnight, at a red light on Benson Boulevard and New Seward Highway. The driver of a Ford Escort rear-ended a Toyota RAV 4 stopped at red light. The driver of the RAV 4 received minor injuries. The driver of the Escort fled the scene. Several more drivers called into dispatch with one driver, traveling at a safe distance behind the suspect, until police arrived to arrest the suspect, 49-year-old Paul Canfield. He had a blood alcohol content almost three times the legal limit.
"We're always appreciative when citizens report dangerous drivers to us," APD Deputy Chief Ken McCoy said. "We just ask citizens to stay safe when they do so."
Law enforcement has signs posted along the highways promoting drivers to call 911 should they see anything that could be potentially harmful. It's called REDDI, which stands for Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately.
"If you are following a driver, stay at a safe distance," McCoy said. "Stay with the dispatcher and give us timely updates to allow us to arrest the driver."
Calling 911 is the best thing to do, and if you can follow the impaired driver safely, keep a low profile and give updates as far as directions, that is very helpful and allows law enforcement to get into the area to safely stop the driver.
"If you're going to call something like that in and decide to follow," McCoy said, "we just ask that you do so safely. Don't put yourself or others in harm's way. If the fact that you are following a person is causing them to drive more reckless or if they are trying to evade you and they are driving recklessly, we'd ask you to back off."
Signs to watch for while driving include, weaving in and out of lanes, driving with windows rolled down in cold weather, passing on curves and double yellow lines,
straddling the center line, making wide or high speed turns out of assigned lanes, driving so slowly as to impede other traffic under current conditions and tailgating.
In referring to the four drivers boxing in the impaired driver in the Glenn Highway, Lt. Gorn says to let law enforcement do its job.
"The initial call came in at 6:27 p.m." Lt. Gorn said. "A trooper was dispatched and was driving in that direction within two minutes. The trooper was talking to the impaired driver within nine minutes of the call being aired."
Although the incident resulted without an injury on Wednesday, there was an injury in Friday's incident, which Lt. Gorn says is more likely to happen."
"In future events, similar events resolving themselves without some type of collision or some type of injury I'd say is unlikely," Lt. Gorn said.
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