Drunken wrong-way driver causes crash on SR 417, FHP says

Victim taken to Orlando hospital with critical injuries

ORLANDO, Fla. – A 32-year-old Sanford man was arrested on DUI charges early Friday in Orange County after the Florida Highway Patrol said he caused a head-on crash by traveling the wrong way on State Road 417.

[TRAFFIC:  Check conditions for your commute]

The FHP said Joel Padilla was arrested in the crash, which was reported about 3:10 a.m. on northbound SR 417 near Curry Ford Road in Orlando.

According to troopers, Padilla was driving a 2003 Hummer south in the northbound lanes of SR 417 when he struck a 2015 Nissan four-door car head-on.

The driver of the Nissan, a 22-year-old Orlando man, was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center with critical injuries, the FHP said. Padilla was not injured, troopers said.

The Nissan then hit a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro, and the driver, a 26-year-old Pompano Beach man, suffered minor injuries, according to troopers.

SR 417 was closed in the area but reopened around three hours later.

It was one of three wrong-way driving incidents that occurred last night.

"We've been tracking these wrong way-way calls for about two years and we have had 414 total, so three in one night is too much," said FHP spokesperson Kim Montes.

The Florida Highway Patrol started tracking these calls after troopers began to realize they were seeing more and more of these types of crashes.

"Right now, Orange County is the fourth busiest for wrong-way crashes,"Montes said. "We have still seen an increase in wrong-way crashes locally. Again, it's just about warning drivers of the potential dangers."

Which is why the Highway Patrol has teamed up with the Central Florida Expressway Authority to install new wrong-way warning senors. The idea came last year.

"They came up with looking at this over a year ago," Montes said. "They did a study. They wanted to see how to combat this. They did trials at Hiawassee and 417 and at State Road 528 and State Road 520."

Montes said those trials were successful.

"They actually saw people righting themselves and turning around," she added.

So two months ago, the Central Florida Expressway Authority began permanently installing the wrong-way signs and sensors, putting up 24 total at exit ramps across Central Florida.  Ten more are on the way.

"When someone goes up an exit ramp the wrong way, lights start flashing obnoxiously, trying to get their attention," Montes said.