The Portland Police Department in Texas is ramping up its strategies to deal with wrong-way drivers after a deadly collision on November 2 near the Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi.
Portland Chief Mark Cory told 3News that he has given his officers the go-ahead to ram wrong-way drivers off the road as a last resort.
“We try to get our units down there as they come off the causeway and set up spike strips in an attempt to get the vehicle to stop there,” the chief said. “If that doesn’t work, I’ve given the order to all of our officers to ram that vehicle off the roadway.”
Cory narrated a video in which his officers managed to get a wrong-way driver off the road during a previous incident.
“Our officers make the decision to take decisive action to take this vehicle off the roadway,” he said. “At this point, to avoid a head-on with oncoming and even after this impact, you’ll notice the suspect leaves across the highway, and our officers are in foot pursuit.”
On November 2, Portland officers were called to stop a wrong-way driver headed toward their jurisdiction. When officers approached the Harbor Bridge, it was too late — two people had already died.
One of the victims was a dispatcher with the San Patricio County Sheriff’s Department, and the other was a 27-year-old father and Navy veteran.
“We got to do something,” San Patricio County Sheriff Oscar Rivera said. “This is not going to work. Who’s next?”
Cory said their department encounters around six wrong-way driving incidents each year. Sometimes, ramming the vehicle — although a risky maneuver for all involved — is the only way to save lives.
“So when people ask me as ‘Chief, why do y’all ram these vehicles with your $70,000 patrol cars?’ and I pull this picture right there … and that’s why we ram vehicles to prevent that from happening,” Cory said while pointing to a photo of a victims’ wrecked car.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is also developing technology to prevent wrong-way driving fatalities.
The device, which will be ready in six months, according to the department, consists of a camera, flashing lights and signs that will be installed above highways to warn drivers of wrong-way vehicles.
The technology will be installed along stretches of the highway — including the Harbor Bridge — that have seen wrong-way driving incidents in the past.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, wrong-way driving incidents have been on the rise.
For instance, the Unified Police Department in Utah reported several wrong-way driving fatalities in March this year.
Colorado police have also seen a spate of wrong-way collisions.