Police say drunken wrong-way driver sped 45 minutes without crash

Published 3:43 pm Thursday, February 12, 2015

SEABROOK, N.H. – Police report early-morning motorists on a primary New England Interstate highway survived every driver’s nightmare Wednesday by avoiding a wrong-way drunken driver for 30 miles on the divided roadway.

Police said the intoxicated driver traveled 45 minutes on Interstate 95 before officers slowed her car with stop sticks that flattened the tires. Even then, they added, she continued on for another mile before stopping.

Authorities said it was nothing short of a miracle that the many motorists, including several semi-trailer trucks, encountering the intoxicated driver were able to avoid her by pulling over to the side of the road or swerving out of the way as she approached.

They identified the wrong-way driver as Alexandra Coates, 23, of Seabrook, N.H. She was charged with drunken driving, possession of a controlled drug and reckless operation of a motor vehicle. She pleaded not guilty at her court arraignment.

Police said she drove north onto the southbound side of I-95 at Peabody, Mass., at 1:15 a.m. and wasn’t stopped until 2 a.m. in this coastal New Hampshire community. Interstate 95 is the principal roadway connecting eastern Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island in New England. It is heavily used by truckers.

Seabrook police officer Joseph Lister said he was traveling south on I-95 when he came upon the wrong-way driver. Lister said he turned his patrol car around, put on his emergency lights and siren and attempted to stop her. But, he added, she refused to slow down or pull over.

Officers ahead of the pursuit finally brought the chase to an end when they deployed stop sticks across the highway.

Wrong-way drivers on divided highways often crash into oncoming vehicles at high speeds, causing death or serious injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency’s most recent statistics show that wrong-way drivers cause about 1.5 percent of all fatal crashes. It said most wrong-way drivers are intoxicated, distracted, inattentive or confused older motorists.

Details for this story were provided by the Salem, Mass., News.